Wisconsin Women in Conservation Offers Free Workshop, Coaching April 6th

Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC), a new state-wide coalition of landowners and conservation agencies, is offering a free on-line “Spring Into Conservation!” workshop on April 6 from 10 to noon. The virtual event aims to connect female farmers and landowners in Polk, Barron, Dunn and surrounding counties who are interested in learning more about land stewardship or in sharing their own expertise. All interested women are welcome. The live Zoom will feature a soil health demonstration and a presentation on native prairie plantings by Britta Peterson from Pheasants Forever. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about pollinator plantings, high tunnels, grazing, and cover crops.  Registration is now open at www.WiWiC.org

The April 6 Zoom event will also introduce local Conservation Coaches who will mentor women landowners who want to learn more about land, water and wildlife stewardship, and sustainable or regenerative agriculture practices. WiWiC Conservation Coaches include: Grazing beef and dairy farmer Mariann Holm from Holm Girls Dairy near Eau Claire, Ayla Dodge from Blackbrook Farm, a certified organic diversified hog and vegetable operation near Amery, and Lauren Langworthy of Blue Ox Farm in Wheeler, where she grows pastured organic lamb and beef. The facilitator for the workshop is WiWiC NW Regional Coordinator Jennifer Nelson, of Humble Pie Farm in Plum City, who grows organic bedding plants, vegetables and flowers. 

“Learning always works best when concepts and hands-on activities intersect. We are doing Zooms now to get to know each other and the concepts, and eventually we will have workshops at local farm field days,” says Holm, who is also an organic crop and livestock inspector. “In the WiWiC learning circles, women can become familiar with the terms and ideas of conservation while literally viewing examples.  Of course, all of this is done in an atmosphere,  where questions – no matter how basic – are encouraged.” 

Women landowners and farm operators are a growing demographic in Wisconsin. The 2017 Census recorded 38,509 female producers in Wisconsin, showing that women make up 35 percent of all producers in the state. Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is a broad state-wide coalition of organizations dedicated to sustainable agriculture and conservation education, with funding from the USDA’s 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). 

“I want to spread the word to women landowners in Wisconsin that they have conservation and organic production options!” said workshop facilitator Jennifer Nelson, “Our water supply, local food system, and community health depend on it.”The WiWiC group hopes to build networks of women that will help each other find technical assistance and possible funding from the USDA-NRCS and other agencies to put more conservation practices in place on their land. The group also plans to do topical virtual workshops through the summer and an in-person farm field day in the fall. This unique three-year initiative will foster networks and education through 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 April 6 workshop, contact [email protected] or 952-451-5393. 
Captions for attached photos: 
Jennifer Nelson, of Humble Pie Farm in Plum City, enjoys a tender moment with her son, Earl Leck, in her field of flowers. Nelson grows organic bedding plants, vegetables, and flowers. She is the NW WiWiC Regional Coordinator and is facilitating workshops and field days for women interested in conservation. The next Zoom Spring Into Conservation! Workshop is April 6. Photo by Ella Frances. 
WiWiC Conservation Coach Lauren Langworthy, of Blue Ox Farm in Wheeler, presents during an on-farm field day, pre-COVID. WiWiC’s April 6 workshop is on Zoom, as will be summer workshops, but they group plans to host an on-farm workshop in the fall. As part of the WiWiC “learning circles” model, Langworthy will provide free mentorship to women interested in conservation. She raises organic grazed lamb and beef with her husband Caleb. 
Mariann Holm co-owns a grass-based organic custom heifer operation at Holm Girl’s Dairy near Eau Claire.  An NRCS-funded hoop house along with a small flock of chickens, a handful of pigs and a couple milk cows provide ways for involving two young sons on the farm.  Holm will serve as a WiWiC Conservation Coach, mentoring women landowners who are interested in sustainable and organic farming.