Wisconsin Women in Conservation, a new state-wide coalition of landowners and agencies, has announced free on-line “Spring Into Conservation!” workshops on March 2 and April 6. The live Zoom events are specifically geared toward female farmers and landowners in Buffalo, Pepin, Pierce and surrounding counties who are interested in learning more about land stewardship or in sharing their own expertise, but they are open to all interested women. Registration is now open at www.wiwic.org.
“I am passionate about farming, about local foods and of course about the environment,” said Sara George, a WiWiC Regional Coordinator who is facilitating the workshops. “I see this project as an opportunity to work alongside incredible women who are capable of leading the change for nature and our well-being and to stand up for conservation.” George grows market vegetables at D&S Gardens in Pepin, and is both a vendor and manager for several farmers markets. She is the Vice President of the MN Farmers Market Association. George is also employed by Harbor View Cafe, a Pepin restaurant that sources food locally, and works for Renewing The Countryside training farmers and processors in food safety protocols.
Elena Byrne, a Local Foods Specialist at Renewing the Countryside, will also help facilitate the workshops. “I’m excited to see this project connect women for a shared effort of continuous improvement in our land stewardship practices. As a landowner myself, I acknowledge that it sometimes feels like a private and lonely affair, but that the chance to invest time and energy into learning and networking has great potential for change—for ourselves, and our shared commitment to conservation,” said Byrne, who lives in Black Earth.
The Zoom events will also feature regional soil experts, wildlife biologists, and others who can provide technical assistance and possibly funding to help participants put more conservation practices in place on their land. The group also plans to do in-person field days and farm demonstrations later in the year. One of the goals of the group is to promote networks of women landowners who can help each other transform their properties, and the group will provide Conservation Coaches to those who want them.
“Women are nurturers …of their families, of their land, of the earth. Women are also change makers and transformers for which not much credit is given to them. I am excited about this project because this focuses on women….and what they can do!” said WiWiC Lead Coordinator Dr. Esther Shekinah, a research agronomist at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. “By bringing conservation to the doorsteps of women of today, imagine the changes we can bring about in conserving the natural resources for our future generations….that’s exhilarating!!”
Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is a broad state-wide coalition of organizations dedicated to sustainable agriculture and conservation education, with support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Michael Fields Agricultural Institute as the lead is partnering with the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Renewing the Countryside, E Resources Group, and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).
Women landowners are a growing demographic. The 2017 Census recorded 38,509 female producers in Wisconsin, showing that women make up 35 percent of all producers in the state. “That’s a 16 percent increase in the number of female producers from the 2012 census,” shares Shekinah. “Though many of these women would like to support sustainable agricultural practices that would help them leave their land for future generations in a state of oneness with nature and better soil health, their lack of exposure to or knowledge about such agricultural practices impedes their acting on these impulses. This new Wisconsin Women in Conservation initiative aims to address that.”
This unique three-year initiative will collaboratively engage women landowners through workshops, field days, farm tours, mentorships, a newsletter and other learning opportunities. Sign up for workshops or the newsletter at www.wiwic.org, and follow the group on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
For more information on the March and April workshops, contact Sara George at [email protected] or 715-651-5046.