American Farmland Trust’s (AFT's) Women for the Land Initiative in the Midwest has had great success over the past few months. Our learning circles provide women the opportunity to meet other land owners, share their farm successes and challenges, discuss their goals for their land and access advice and technical assistance.
“In the Midwest, women now own or co-own between one-fourth and one-half of the farmland. These women are very interested in farming practices that benefit the health of their land. Our focus is to connect these women with each other and with the resource professionals who can help them with their farmland management goals,” said Jennifer Filipiak, Midwest Director for American Farmland Trust.
AFT recently hosted our Chicagoland Series in Joliet, Naperville, and Riverwoods, Illinois. Our Riverwoods learning circle workshop, in particular, had women that represented farmland from four different states including: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
“Many women who own or inherit farmland haven’t worked with their farmer and conservation ideas are difficult to address at first. These meetings encourage women to begin conversations with their family and farmer,” stated workshop facilitator assistant Lora Sova, LS organic grain farmer and former agricultural advisor to Governor Quinn.
Our local host for the Joliet workshop was Michelle Blackburn, Agriculture Specialist for the Will County Forest Preserve. Michelle reported that although she doesn’t own farmland, she does rent out farmland, similar to the private farmland owners at the learning circle. This year the forest preserve made some conservation-friendly changes to their lease - they added a requirement that all their farmland be no-till and offered discounts for other improvements (some fields needed new grassed water ways, in others they want contour strips seeded to native species, and on all of their fields they want cover crops). She assured landowners, that even with these conservation preferences, she had no problem finding farmers to rent their land!)
Hosting learning circles on soil health is key towards AFT’s mission of promoting sound farming practices. In the Midwest, we pride ourselves on the ability to produce America’s food. AFT stands behind our farmers and non-operating landowners and the availability to keep farming the land and being aware of resources available.
American Farmland Trust is hosting the Women Caring for the Land Chicagoland series in partnership with the Women Food and Agriculture Network. We’ll be hosting 4 more learning circles in the Chicago area in 2019! If you would like to get on our mailing list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our calendar at www.farmland.org/women