Women, Land and Legacy Timeline (last updated 05/2014)
In April 2003 a subcommittee formed through the Iowa State Outreach Council (SOC) to make recommendations for an outreach project specifically addressing the needs of women in agriculture. The purpose of the SOC, which is made up of USDA agencies and partners, it to work together on initiatives to identify and meet the needs of the underserved populations of Iowa. The initial subcommittee consisted of:
- Beth Grabau: Farm Service Agency
- Tanya Meyer-Dideriksen: Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Denise O’Brien: Women, Food and Agriculture Network
- Carol Smith: National Catholic Rural Life Conference
- Mary Swalla-Holmes: Ecumenical Ministries of Iowa (this organization has since closed)
- Dick Tremain: Natural Resources Conservation Service (now replaced by Stephanie Hill)
- Kay Triplett: National Agriculture Statistics
- Laurie Fredricks: Risk Management Agency
The subcommittee went through a process of deciding how outreach and information delivery could be done. They were referred to the “Study of Cass County Iowa Women Farmland Owners,” that was conducted by Women, Food and Agriculture Network and Iowa State University. This study used a participatory research model to find out what information women landowners desired to have and how they wished to receive that information. The study revealed among other things, that women liked to meet with other women in small groups, that they have a strong desire to be “good” managers of their farms, and that they were not always receiving the information they needed to help them make decisions.
The subcommittee decided to use the recommendations from the research and develop a method of outreach that had never been used before by USDA agencies in the state of Iowa. The subcommittee presented the idea to the SOC and was given the approval to develop “Women, Land and Legacy: Building Your Farms’ Future Today.SM“
The small group dialogue and focused conversation process became the main concept of the WLL project and are still used today. This process brings women together in small groups to share and have dialogue about specific topics, then allows them to further explore the topic and develop guidelines and solutions as a large group.
With SOC approval, the subcommittee tested the focused conversation model in a workshop at the Practical Farmer’s of Iowa annual conference in January 2004. With the workshop a success, the subcommittee picked five pilot counties, Lyon, Howard, Marshall, Wapello and Cass to start the project. Local teams, made up of representatives from USDA agencies, Extension, and other community partners, formed in these counties to provide direct outreach to local women. This structure of locally-led education and networking remains one of the foundations of the program state-wide.
Since it formally kicked-off in 2004, Women, land & Legacy has impacted an estimated 4,000 individuals. As of September of 2016 WLL was active in 25 counties, with 20 teams providing greatly needed outreach and education to women in their communities. An informational brochure, website, quarterly newsletter and Facebook page have helped promote the program further and assisted teams in promoting their events.
To help further expand WLL, the State Team worked with several partners to find funding to hire a state-wide WLL Coordinator in 2015. This was made possible through financial support from the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and a partnership with Women, Food & Agriculture Network who employs the coordinator.
The lessons learned from this project have shown that women desire a different kind of delivery method when it comes to receiving information they need to conduct the business of their farms and land ownership decision making. In addition to the direct benefits to female landowners and farmers in Iowa, this program is a great example of how governmental, nonprofit and other organizations can work together to help create new ways of learning.