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Initiative Aims to Get More Women Landowners Involved in Conservation

Women farm or co-farm more than 300 million acres across the country. (Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr)
Women farm or co-farm more than 300 million acres across the country. (Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr)
February 12, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – Increasingly, women are the landowners of farms, but they often lack access to conservation programs and resources. That's why the American Farmland Trust (AFT) is starting its Women for the Land initiative.

AFT Midwest Director Jennifer Filipiak says the key is to get information to an often-overlooked group: non-operating landowners, meaning owners who aren't farming the land themselves. In North Dakota, 50 percent farmland is rented out.

Filipiak says women have shown a lot of interest in conservation, but don't always know where to start.

"There are gender barriers. Those barriers are very real," she insists. "I've talked to hundreds of women landowners in the Midwest, and I hear it pop up again and again. You know, agriculture is dominated by males, and so it's sometimes hard for them to get the information."

Across the country, more than 300 million acres are farmed or co-farmed by women, and nearly 90 million acres are in the hands of women landowners. The AFT says that number is likely to increase as farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation.

The initiative is focused on three areas. First, it wants to gather more research on women landowners and the barriers they face. Next, AFT wants to gather more so-called "learning circles," which help to connect women in agriculture. And last, the organization is providing technical assistance and advocating for policy changes to help women landowners.

Filipiak says there's a lot owners can do to help their land, and offers a few examples:

"Wanting to protect the soil from erosion, wanting to rebuild organic matter in the soil, wanting to have good pollinator habitat and beneficial insects on your farm, wanting to make sure that the water that runs off the farm is clean and it's not taking soil and fertilizer with it - these are all things that we can manage," she says.

She notes that communication between farmers and landowners is pivotal when it comes to land-management practices.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND