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Wanted: Dakota Women Landowners Invested in Conservation

About one-third of the total U.S. farmland is farmed or co-farmed by women, with another 87 million acres owned by women who do not farm. (extension.umd.edu/womeninag)
About one-third of the total U.S. farmland is farmed or co-farmed by women, with another 87 million acres owned by women who do not farm. (extension.umd.edu/womeninag)
February 13, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. – Increasingly, women are the landowners on farms, but they often lack access to conservation programs and resources. That's why the American Farmland Trust is starting the Women for the Land initiative.

Jennifer Filipiak, Midwest director of the trust, says the key is to get information to an often overlooked group: non-operating landowners - that is, owners who aren't farming the land themselves.

In South Dakota, 60 percent of 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," she notes. "Those barriers are very real. 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 hard. 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 trust 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, the trust 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.

"Wanting to protect the soil from erosion," she adds. "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."

Filipiak says communication between farmers and landowners is pivotal when it comes to land-management practices.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD