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Women veteran farmers can find needed expertise

By Staff | Apr 19, 2014

Leigh Adcock, executive director Women, Food and Ag Network,

AMES – They may not be entering farming to compete in the major commodity crop and livestock markets, but more women are moving into agriculture as a career.

And that includes women who are leaving military service to farm.

With that influx, the Ames-based Women, Food and Ag Network said it has identified a need for women to get expertise in sustainable farming systems.

So, according to Leigh Adcock, WFAN is sponsoring a mentorship pairing women veterans with long-time farming women.

The program is the Iowa Female Farmer Veteran Network.

WFAN is currently taking applications for women to be on both sides of the mentoring equation.

Adcock said this program, called “Harvesting Our Potential,” is an expansion of its 10-year mentorship program.

WFAN received a grant for $25,000 for a one-year pilot program and hopes to get eight mentoring pairs in Iowa.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has similar farm-mentoring programs, but Adcock said most young women just leaving the military “really don’t want a lot to do with the government right now.”

She’s hoping veteran women who want to farm will respond to a non-government entity to get the know-how they need.

“We mostly work with women in diversified farming,” Adcock said. “We’re looking for women with at least five years experience farming” to serve as mentors.

As of April 7, Adcock said, there is an experienced farmer in the Cedar Rapids area who is ready to take on a mentee.

Mentors will receive a $50-per-week stipend for their time, and mentees will be reimbursed for mileage and draw wages for any work they do for the mentor.

How much time they spend together will be determined by the pairs.

Basically, the program will call for the mentee to spend 10 weeks working with an established female farmer in Iowa, operating the type of farm that matches the mentee’s interest – including fruit and vegetable systems, orchards, livestock or diversified crops.

They will learn skills geared to production, harvest, post-harvest handling and marketing.

Adcock said they’ll work to match the mentees’ interests with a mentor with the right background and expertise.

“There are currently more than 17,800 women veterans in Iowa,”?Adcock said. “The unemployment rate for veteran women is higher than veteran men.

“We’re reaching out to those who want to farm.”

The program, Adcock said, includes two career development workshops during the year the pairs will be matched.

To apply for the mentoring program visit wfan.org/opportunities-for-veteran-farmers.

The applications will remain open until all eight slots are filled, Adcock said.

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