Iowa Co. Hosts 5th Annual IA Women Landowners Conference

On June 22nd, the Iowa Co. WLL team will host its 5th annual conference for Iowa women landowners, in Brooklyn, IA. We asked one of the team members, Jennifer Ness, more about this highly anticipated event. Continue reading

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Rural Legacy is Here!

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Enjoy the latest edition of Rural Legacy, the quarterly newsletter of Women, Land & Legacy. In this edition:

  • Tama Co. Women, Land & Legacy celebrates 10 years
  • USDA Census –  Make sure you are counted
  • Get to know the NRCS resources available to you
  • WLL news and upcoming events

Archived newsletters can be found here.

Thanks for reading!

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Tama Co. WLL Celebrates 10th year, 30th Event

Women, Land & Legacy has been a growing program since 2004, made possible only by the commitment and great outreach efforts from our local teams across Iowa. Tama Co.’s WLL team has been one of the longest-running groups now celebrating 10 years of local programming for women in Tama and surrounding counties. Their 30th event, on beekeeping, will be held this Thursday, April 6th. WLL Coordinator Wren Almitra recently interviewed Melody Bro, a member of the Tama team and previous WLL Coordinator. Continue reading

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Aspiring & Beginning Women Farmer Learning Circle Set for May

Are you an aspiring or beginning woman farmer who is interested in networking with other beginning farmers? On May 8th the Women, Food and Agriculture Network will hold a learning circle in Johnson Co. for women wanting to learn more about how to get their farming operation started. Networking, hearing from resource experts, lunch, and farm tours all to be included. More details on the WFAN website.


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Plate to Politics Program Gives Women Tools for Becoming Policy Makers and Advocates

If you’ve felt motivated to become more politically active or have even thought about running for office, you should plan to attend the Plate to Politics training on March 18th in Des Moines. Other trainings will happen in Wisconsin and Minnesota in April.

Read more about these fantastic opportunities at the Women, Food & Ag. Network’s website.

des moines 2017 flyer

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Rural Legacy is Here!

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Enjoy the latest edition of Rural Legacy, the quarterly newsletter of Women, Land & Legacy. In this edition:

  • Iowa resources for beginning farmers
  • Upcoming CRP workshops for women
  • Resources for pollinator habitat
  • WLL news and upcoming events

Archived newsletters can be found here.

Thanks for reading!

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Landowners Learn About Intricacies of Soil at Dubuque Learning Session

This article was written by Jim Swenson of the Telegraph Herald after the Dubuque Co. WLL event on January 10th.

Tricia Conter never knew soil could be so complicated. The Cascade woman attended a Dubuque Women, Land & Legacy learning session Tuesday at the Peosta Community Centre. She and her husband, Paul, plan to rent at least 40 acres on his family’s Century Farm this spring. “I’m here getting my hands dirty with actual farming,” she said. “I know nothing, so everything I’ve heard today is new to me.”

About 25 people, including five men, heard from two speakers and saw demonstrations on dirt during a three-hour presentation. The main topics were the intricate biological makeup of soil and the advantages of not tilling soil too frequently. “From a farmer’s perspective, if water is running off your land or becoming a pond, it seems intuitive to fluff it up to let the water get into it,” said Jennifer Filipiak, associate Midwest director at the American Farmland Trust, based in DeKalb, Ill. “Now we’re realizing it’s just the opposite.”


Presenter Jennifer Filipiak stands in front of demo. tests of soil health.


Soil that is not tilled can keep a more conducive structure for water to penetrate into the roots. The biological “critters,” as Filipiak put it, such as earthworms, mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria bring more nutrients from and into the soil. Tilling can disturb or kill those critters. “The till versus no-till (discussion) was very interesting and different,” said Lynn Sutton, of Dubuque, an avid urban gardener. “I think it’s something different that I could use.”

The first demonstration was a slake test, where clumps of tilled and non-tilled soil were dropped into bottles. The non-tilled soil held together better. An infiltration test simulated rainfall going over soil clumps. The water went through the non-tilled soil in a consistent fashion but began to pool up on the tilled side.

Colleen Siefken, conservation assistant with the Dubuque Soil and Water Conservation District, said the sessions are meant to help attendees get a working knowledge of the subject. “We’re bringing them the basics,” she said. “There might be articles out there that are way over their heads. This is a tool to help make them better informed.” The other speaker, Laura Klavitter, of Dubuque County Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, gave a tutorial on soil sampling and testing.

Filipiak said “there are a lot of good reasons to till.” “The goal is, perhaps, to till less,” she said. “Soil is a living, breathing thing. There’s a lot we don’t know about what’s going on beneath the surface of the soil.” That’s why attendees such as Conter showed up through sleet and rain. “The fungi system within a system blew my mind,” she said. “I’m literally working from the ground up.”

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Iowa’s Conservation Partnership Day Included Women, Land & Legacy and Women Caring for the Land Programs

WFAN collaborator Jean Eells represented the Women Caring for the Land program at Iowa’s Conservation Partnership Day at the Iowa Capitol on January 17. Susan Kozak, Mines and Minerals Bureau Chief of IDALS Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality represented Women, Land and Legacy. This was the first time the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, Women Caring for the Land and Women, Land and Legacy were included as partners.

Click here to read more on this story from the WFAN website.

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Map of My Kingdom Play Available on DVD

By Wren Almitra

If you haven’t had an opportunity to see in person the thought-provoking play, Map of My Kingdom, or want to view it again, you now have the opportunity to see it at home. Thmomk-poster-jpganks to playwright Mary Swander and AgArts you can purchase and watch the production with family and friends on DVD or by download. Though I highly recommend finding a live show to attend (you can see upcoming shows here), I am excited that there is an opportunity to get the play more widely viewed, helping further inspire conversations about farmland transition.

You can purchase your own copy from Mary Swander (details below). Consider hosting a movie night with your family or community members who may be working through farm transition questions (be sure to have some Iowa-grown popcorn on hand for maximum viewing experience).

The play will undoubtedly generate many questions, including those surrounding how and where to get started with transitioning your family’s land. There are a number of resources and legal experts available to help answer these sometimes difficult questions and guide your conversations. See below for links to a few of these suggested resources.

map-of-my-kingdom-mary-and-elizabeth                                                                                       Playwright Mary Swander and actress Elizabeth Thompson at the play premiere, Scattergood Friends School, 2014. Photo credit, Practical Farmers of Iowa. 

More about the play from a recent press release:

The play was originally commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa and the video made possible from a grant by the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust. The video stars Cora Vander Broek, a professional Los Angeles-based actor, giving a masterful performance before a live audience at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

In the play, character Angela Martin, a lawyer and mediator in land transition disputes, shares stories of how farmers and landowners have approached their land transitions. Some families struggled to resolve the sale or transfer of their land, dissolving relationships. Others found peacefully rational solutions that focused on keeping the land – and the family – together.

The USDA’s most recent survey of farmland ownership predicts more than 140 million acres of farmland in the United states will transition in the next four years. Fifty-six percent of Iowa farmland is owned by people over the age of 65, according to a report by retired Iowa State University economist Mike Duffy, “Farmland Ownership and Tenure Report in Iowa 2012”. Thoughtful transition will not only help keep farmers on the land but enhance long-range social and ecological benefits, from support of the fabric of small towns and schools, to wildlife habitat, flood control, and carbon sequestration.

The Map of my Kingdom DVD can be purchased or downloaded from Mary Swander’s website: To book a live performance, contact:

More information about Practical Farmers of Iowa and farmland transition, including suggested Iowa based mediator’s, can be found at:

For additional estate planning resources, viewers may want to contact the Iowa Bar Association.

The Land Stewardship Project has a toolkit for farmland transition. More at

More information about AgArts, a non-profit designed to image and promote healthy food systems through the arts can be found at:

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From Pollinators to Legacy Planning, Farm Safety to Farm Crawl, Women, Land & Legacy Wraps-up a Fun and Informative 2016

By Wren Almitra

2016 has been chock-full of great Women, Land & Legacy Learning Sessions (educational and networking events) across the state. The year kicked-off with our southwest WLL team providing a culinary gathering at Sauced in Red Oak, IA where participants got to learn about farm-to-table and using home-grown produce and herbs in their cooking. The Des Moines/Louisa team sponsored the highly rated play, Map of My Kingdom, which explores the dynamic and often difficult conversations Iowa families face in making decisions about farm transition. Meanwhile, the Iowa Co. and the Buena Vista/Pocahontas teams each brought speakers in to discuss grain marketing.


WLL participants in SW Iowa enjoy networking, learning and eating at Sauced in Red Oak.

The spring saw programming on edible landscaping in Jackson Co., a Women, Land & Legacy webinar hosted by Iowa Learning Farms, a pollinators meeting in Cerro Gordo Co., and a soil health meeting in Mitchell Co., which was a collaboration of the Mitchell Co. WLL team and the Women, Food & Ag. Network’s Women Caring for the Land program.


Jackson Co. WLL drew over 100 people to learn about edible landscaping with Fred Meyer of Backyard Abundance.

Summer was ripe with WLL programming, with an all-day conference on legacy planning in Iowa Co., a tour of Red Earth gardens as well as workshops on farm safety and cover crops in Tama Co., and healthcare finances in Winnebego/Worth counties, among many others. The season wrapped-up with the 2nd annual Johnson Co. WLL Farm Crawl.


Workshop leaders instruct on farm safety in Tama Co.

Finally, three new teams, Calhoun/Sac counties, Madison Co. and Dubuque Co., formally joined WLL with their first event, a Listening Session, while Palo Alto and Emmet counties formed their local team and are making plans for their Listening Session for winter 2017.


Dubuque Co. WLL team is made up of local women from USDA agencies, ISU Extension, landowners and farmers

In short, 2016 has been a busy year for Women, Land & Legacy, with our local teams reaching over 1,000 participants through 30 state-wide events! In addition to the information learned at these events, women were able to network with other women in their communities, connect with agencies that can provide assistance and resources for their farm decisions, and engage in a huge effort to empower women involved in agriculture and land stewardship. There are still several opportunities in 2016 to participate in a local event near you. Check our events calendar and please stay tuned for another year of great women-powered outreach across Iowa in 2017!

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