Women for the Land

Empowering women landowners to conserve their land

Over the past few decades, women have entered agriculture in unprecedented numbers. Increasingly, women own farmland, are new farmers or have become more involved in all aspects of agriculture.

There are now nearly one million women farm operators, and over half-a-million additional women landowners who lease their land to farmers. Nearly 301 million acres of U.S. land—about a third of the nation’s land in farms—are now farmed or co-farmed by women, and at least 87 million additional acres are in the hands of women landowners.

Over the next 20 years, about 240 million acres of farmland are expected to change hands as farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation. During that time, women and non-farming landlords are likely to increase in numbers.

Research shows that many women farmers and landowners have a strong conservation and stewardship ethic. They are deeply committed to healthy farmland, farm families and farm communities. However, women face gender-related barriers to managing their land for long-term sustainability. While women increasingly are the primary decision makers on farms, data shows they are underrepresented in conservation programs.

AFT's Women for the Land Initiative

American Farmland Trust’s national Women for the Land initiative addresses the obstacles that women landowners face in accessing conservation programs and resources. In part, the initiative hosts “learning circles” that empower women landowners to adopt environmentally sound farming practices, protect farmland and improve the viability of their farms. 

Women for the Land combines research, on-the-ground projects and policy efforts to transform the agricultural landscape and develop a new voice for conservation. There are three components:

1) Research into women landowners and the barriers they face

Little research exists on the millions of Americans who own and lease agricultural land, especially women. To fill this critical research gap, AFT developed and tested a new national landowner survey and is working to secure resources to launch the survey in 2018 in order to learn more about the long-term goals and needs of non-operating landowners.

In addition, women face unique barriers to stewarding their farmland. AFT’s Women for the Land initiative is testing new ways to ensure women landowners have access to the information, support and resources to put their conservation plans into action. 

2) Learning Circles to engage women in conservation 

The Women for the Land initiative is rooted in AFT’s work hosting “learning circles” for women landowners in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, starting in 2012. The circles are a well-tested approach pioneered by the Women, Food and Agriculture (WFAN) network that have brought nearly 4,000 women landowners together with female conservation professionals.

Upcoming learning circles are scheduled in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Great Lakes. Click here to see the calendar and to register.

3) Technical assistance and policy reforms to better serve women landowners

The Farmland Information Center (FIC)—AFT’s national clearinghouse of
information about farmland protection and stewardship in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service—provides customized information and technical assistance to address the needs of women landowners. 

Through a website, toll-free hotline and written materials, the FIC provides knowledge and training for women landowners and their farm advisors on conservation programs, farmland protection options, sample leases and succession plans.

Visit www.farmlandinfo.org for more information. 

AFT will also develop and advocate for new federal and state policies and programs that engage women landowners and farmers, including non-operating landowners. AFT will bring women landowner participants and other agricultural leaders to Washington, D.C. to share their unique perspectives on the importance of conserving and protecting working lands with USDA and other federal agencies. An important outcome will be a growing list of women farmers and landowners who can advocate for strong conservation policies and programs. 

Contact

To learn more, about the Women for the Land Initiative, contact Jennifer Filipiak,
AFT’s Midwest Director, at jfilipiak@farmland.org or (515) 868-1331.

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