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Women landowner conservation project expanding in, outside Iowa

By Staff | Feb 4, 2011

After more than a decade of working with women farmers and farmland owners across the state of Iowa, interviewing more than 1,000 of them and learning about their hopes and values for their land, WFAN is finally being rewarded for this pioneering work by receiving several state and federal grants for Women Caring for the Land program, to support expanding it throughout Iowa and outside the state into the upper Midwest.

Nearly 50 percent of the farmland in Iowa is currently owned or co-owned by women.

Although there’s no comparable data for neighboring states, partners in those states feel their statistics are comparable.

Many of these women landowners are now inheriting their family farms from spouses and fathers.

Most have never participated in day-to-day farm management decisions, and are not familiar with the language of government crop or conservation programs.

“What’s the difference between CSP and CRP?” is a common question, along with curiosity about what soil and water conservation techniques are best, which ones require state or federal assistance, how these government contracts work, and what other options are available for accomplishing better stewardship.

Another hot button for many women landowners is how to work with tenant farmers on managing their land.

Many report they have excellent tenants who work hard to conserve soil and keep water quality high.

But others would like to see improvements, and are unsure how to approach their tenants about the subject.

Some are not even aware that they are responsible for making these decisions.

Others are charging rental rates well below the state average, but often do not have written leases and therefore have no structured way to approach renters about raising rent.

From 2011 to 2013, WFAN will partner with the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb., to disseminate the learning circles model to conservation professionals in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

WFAN is a partner on a $500,000 USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant led by Practical Farmers of Iowa to help Iowa’s beginning farmers link to the resources they need to get started, including access to land that may be provided by Iowa’s women landowners.

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