WFAN Staff Build Network, Skills at Summer Conferences

WFAN program staff are always working to expand our network and our knowledge and skills in sustainable agriculture and food justice. In the past six months, staff have presented at and attended conferences on a variety of topics. Learn more about their individual experiences in the summaries below.

Wren Almitra, Women, Land & Legacy Coordinator

Land for Good Conference in Denver, Colorado

In June, Wren traveled to Denver to co-present with three other women at the “Changing Lands, Changing Hands” conference, hosted by east-coast based land trust organization Land for Good. Co-presenters included Madeline Schultz of ISU Extension & Outreach’s Women in Ag. program; Deb Heleba, University of Vermont Extension’s Sustainable Agriculture program, and Joy Kirkpatrick, Outreach Specialist for the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Their workshop, entitled “Women on the Land,” highlighted successful programs that are reaching women who own land, those seeking access to land for farming, and women involved in caring for land. Wren was pleased to observe that Women, Food & Agriculture Network’s work, in particular, our Women Caring for the Land program, was well-known by many participants and highlighted in other discussions outside of the workshop.

The conference format included open discussion formats in workshops and regional networking sessions and brought together professionals and farmers working in the field of land tenure and farming to engage in brainstorming solutions to the issues of our rapidly changing lands nationwide. With that came a refreshing sense of connectedness and a common sense of both urgency and optimism for tackling the challenges the country is facing with farmland turnover and access, including for farmers of color, beginning farmers, women farmers and others. That a workshop was included focused specifically on women in agriculture was yet another testament to how important the role of agricultural women and programs supporting them is in this broader discussion.

Iowa Women in Ag. Conference in Ankeny, Iowa

In August, Wren tabled at the annual Iowa Women in Ag. Conference in Ankeny, IA representing WFAN programs. At a pre-conference banquet, Ruth Rabinowitz shared her conservation story on family-owned farms in the mid-west. Her message of carrying on her father’s legacy of preserving farm ground and the work that has gone into learning how to best care for the land through conservation practices found an engaged and eager group of women. Ruth has utilized many WFAN resources, including our Women Caring for the Land program on her journey as a landowner. The conference had over 150 women engaged through a variety of workshops on estate and land transition planning, grazing cover crops, engaging in honest farm conversations with family, and self-care on the farm. Wren is always eager to chat with women about WFAN programs, and loves to watch our attractive Women Caring for the Land flyers fly off the table!

Ash Bruxvoort, Plate to Politics & Communications Coordinator

Camp Wellstone Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota

In July, Ash attended the Camp Wellstone training in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the Movement Technology track. The conference had four different tracks for candidates, campaign managers, grassroots organizers, and digital organizers. The attendees came from a diverse range of backgrounds and Ash was very pleased to run into several folks from the North Dakota Farmers Union and a WFAN member at the training!

The three-day training was extremely rigorous and Ash recommends any of the tracks for women who are serious about running for office or want to help manage campaigns in rural areas. One of the issues addressed at the training was a lack of political and organizing skills (particularly digital skills) in rural communities. If we really want to change the food system, more women in our network need to run for office and gain the necessary skills to support candidates aligned with sustainable agriculture and food justice work. Interested women are encouraged to check out WFAN's Plate to Politics program.

Carol Schutte, Women Caring for the Land Coordinator

Cultivating Your Investment: Landowners and Stewardship conference in Des Moines, Iowa

Carol had the opportunity in July to attend Drake Law School’s conference, “Cultivating Your Investment: Landowners and Stewardship.” This event was designed for landowners to share their experiences and learn about how to protect their land, care for the soil and water, and look to the future of their farmland. Not only was this a great chance to hear experts in the fields of soil health and legacy planning, it was also very affirming that the work WFAN is doing is right on target and an important part of the larger community of people working toward a more just and sustainable food system.

Dr. Jerry Hatfield spoke on “Conservation and Economics Working Together.“ This is a connection we are always trying to emphasize in our Women Caring for the Land workshops. Conservation does conserve money in the long run, even if it might cost a bit to first implement the practices. It is also the only way we can ensure productive land to pass on to the next generations of farmers. Several other sessions addressed the need to visit with tenants and other farmers about the importance of conservation and the landowner’s obligation to effect good stewardship on the landscape. Iowans need to continue to hear these messages, from academics, agriculture agencies, farm management companies and their own farming peers!

We are a community, and getting together frequently for the newest information and moral support is important for the future of agriculture in our region. Consider attending a soil, water, or general stewardship workshop yourself in the near future!

The Drake Agricultural Law Center is dedicated to providing opportunities to study how the legal system shapes our food system and influences the ability of the agricultural sector to produce, market, and utilize agricultural products. For more information about the mission of the Agricultural Law Center. They do great work!

Jean Eells, Collaborator: Women Caring for the Land

International Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference  in Madison, Wisconsin 

Jean Eells traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to the International Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference on behalf of WFAN to present a symposium with partners Jennifer Filipiak, Midwest Regional Director for American Farmland Trust and Becky Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist with Indiana NRCS. They shared results from the 2013-2016 NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant that took Women Caring for the Land and a soil health message to six states beyond Iowa. Jen Filipiak described what started in Iowa as a movement that’s spreading nationally about the importance of including women farmland owners in conservation messaging. Becky shared stories of women who attended meetings and of how Indiana NRCS has fostered development of an independent steering committee called Women 4 the Land. Jean told participants about the new professional certification course for NRCS employees that focuses on improving conservation outreach to women producers and landowners. She was also heartened to hear former NRCS Wisconsin State Conservationist, Jimmie Bramblett, bring up women landowners as an important audience during another conference presentation! It’s nice to hear women landowners mentioned without us having to be the ones reminding others – that’s a good sign.