WFAN Herstory



United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China

The idea of WFAN was born in 1994, when Iowa organic farmer Denise O’Brien and New York state food justice advocate Kathy Lawrence organized a women in agriculture working group for the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing. 

They were passionate about addressing the absence of women’s voices in agricultural policy in the US and abroad. They wanted to empower women as champions of healthy food and farming systems, food justice, and food sovereignty within their own communities.



A network is born.

After the international conference, working group member Denise O’Brien organized the Network to build a national community of interest linking women, food systems and sustainable agriculture. In 1997, a group of Iowa women began to work with Denise to formalize the group as a Tides Foundation project.

Read more about WFAN’s Founding Mothers here.



Harvesting Our Potential Forms

WFAN holds a pilot project for women interested in farming to form a mentorship with women farmers. It is immediately apparent that this support helps more women become successful farmers, and it grows into our Harvesting Our Potential program. 



Women Caring for the Land Forms

WFAN begins a pilot project to reach an underrepresented and often silent group: women who own farmland. This grows into Women Caring for the Land, which uses learning circles for women to talk about their hopes for their land and to learn about conservation.



WFAN + Women in Natural Resources conferences begin

WFAN earns 501c3 status and begins co-hosting a conference with Women in Natural Resources. WFAN begins hosting their own annual conference in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2012. 



Plate to Politics forms

A diverse group of 30 women food system leaders from across the country met in Racine, WI, to begin the process of creating a national strategy for strengthening the influence of women in the healthy food and farming movement. Through this, Plate to Politics forms.




Leigh Adcock wins Spencer Award

WFAN Executive Director Leigh Adcock wins the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture

Women, Land & Legacy Forms

WFAN partners with USDA to coordinate the Women, Land & Legacy program.



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Bridget Holcomb Speaks to USDA Leadership

Executive Director Bridget Holcomb is invited to speak to USDA leadership about WFAN, reaching women in food and agriculture, and what the USDA can do. 



Women Caring for the Land Celebrates 200th Meeting

By June 2017, more than 3,200 women had attended a Women Caring for the Land meeting. Read more about this milestone here.

Awarded inaugural Woman in Sustainable Agriculture Award

At the 2017 WFAN Annual Conference we gave the inaugural Woman in Sustainable Agriculture Award to WFAN’s founding mothers.