WiWiC Hosts Learning Circle

Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is hosting a Spring Learning Circle on Tuesday, May 7 from 11:30am until 3:30pm. The group will gather and have lunch in the Badger Den at the MacKenzie Nature Center, W7303 County Highway CS, Poynette. The topic is Spring into Conservation: Secrets of Soil Health and the event is for all women-identifying growers, landowners, farmers, farm workers, land managers and conservation professionals, regardless of experience or the amount of land being cultivated. Participants will learn about soil health and water conservation practices they can use to improve their outcomes, and learn about potential opportunities to design and fund those practices. The event is free but pre-registration is necessary, for planning purposes, at WiWiC.org/upcoming-events.

“I’m thrilled to gather with woman landowners at the beautiful MacKenzie Nature Center to share our stories, ideas, challenges, and questions surrounding our relationship with the land and our conservation dreams,” says Allison Crook, a membership coordinator with Wisconsin Farmers Union. Crook serves as the Central Region Coordinator for Wisconsin Women in Conservation, and planned the event. 

The goal of the event is to make women land stewards aware of practices and infrastructure innovations that can improve soil quality, crop resilience, water conservation and success in gardens and crops, regardless of size. Part of the day will include a Rainfall Simulator demonstration, which shows the effects that different land practices can have on erosion and water retention for crops and gardens. 

Local conservation professionals will be available to meet participants and talk about the many county and federal programs available to support private conservation efforts, including technical design assistance and cost share funding for high tunnels, raised beds, irrigation cover crops, compost facilities, pollinator plantings, green energy, and other practices. In many cases, you do not need to own land to participate. Marie Raboin and Katie Nicholas, Conservation Specialists from Dane County Land and Water Resources Department will attend, along with Shaina Dlosterman, Land and Water Resources Management Specialist with Columbia County Land and Water Conservation Department. 

Participants will also meet several local WiWiC Conservation Coaches, who are mentors and host field days on their farm. Erin Schneider is a Conservation Coach from Hilltop Community Farm in Sauk County. Shelly Rothman is a Conservation Coach from Good Trouble Grove in Green Lake. Both will be present on May 7.

“What keeps me going, growing, and inspired by WiWIC is that it allows for space to come together and support the people, places and farms who I share a home with. I think the key to farming and conservation is to understand the interrelationships and relatedness of what people care about and love,” says Schneider, who specializes in growing organic perennial fruits and flowers. “To see the human and non-human realm in their hearts and minds too. That’s part of the conservation story, WiWIC inspires us to explore.” 

“We depend on vibrant ecosystems to live in any kind of decent manner. And I feel so much better, mentally and physically, when I am in and among these living spaces,” says Rothman, who grazes cattle and chickens amongst an agroforestry farm. She is co-founder and Executive Director of Foxhead Regenerative Agriculture Project.  “I can’t think of a better way to spend my time and energy than conserving, regenerating, and even expanding them.”

Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is a state-wide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Wisconsin Farmers Union, Renewing the Countryside, E Resources Group and Marbleseed (formerly MOSES) with support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The goal of the project is to connect women landowners and farmers with each other and with local conservation professionals and organizations. In addition to holding events, WiWiC offers Conservation Coach mentorship and FREE Conservation Plans written by local professionals, in conjunction with a site visit. 

WiWiC is launching a tri-county network in 2024 across Sauk, Columbia and Green Lake Counties that aims to build knowledge and relationships between women conservation professionals and land stewards. This is the first of three events that will be hosted in the region this year. WiWiC has been holding events like these for three years in 19 counties across the state. This year they are adding 12 more counties to the network. 

WiWiC connects women landowners, farmers, farmworkers, and conservation professionals across the state through workshops, field days, farm tours, potlucks, mentorships, a newsletter, podcast, and other learning opportunities. A team of Regional Coordinators leads cohorts of women landowners in nine regions to network and share resources as well as to connect them to regional NRCS agency staff and programs. Women also have the opportunity to work with Conservation Coaches, who are experienced women landowners with particular expertise in different aspects of conservation. WiWiC hosts a state-wide Wisconsin Women in Conservation Educators Network that convenes twice a year virtually to share best practices and support each other’s work. For more information visit WiWiC.org.