American Farmland Trust Hosts Women for the Land Learning Circle for Women Farmers and Landowners - American Farmland Trust

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American Farmland Trust Hosts Women for the Land Learning Circle for Women Farmers and Landowners

“Planning for Resilience in the San Joaquin Valley” virtual event will allow networking and knowledge sharing among women farmers and agricultural landowners in Merced, Madera and Stanislaus Counties.

Sept. 8, 2020, SACRAMENTO, Cali – American Farmland Trust, a national leader in protecting agricultural land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land, has announced a two-part “Women for the Land Virtual Learning Circle” for women farmers and non-operating owners of agricultural land in Merced, Madera and Stanislaus Counties.  The virtual event will be held on Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., via Zoom.

Focused on “Planning for Resilience in the San Joaquin Valley,” the AFT Learning Circle will connect women in agriculture so they can plan for ecological and economic resilience on their land, and learn about the latest research and technical resources available to help women navigate the impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

“A key component of AFT’s San Joaquin Valley Land & Water Strategy is to help farmers throughout the region comply with SGMA,” explains Kara Heckert, AFT’s California regional director. “Women farmers, however, are often overlooked, underappreciated and underserved. They experience gender bias and often have less access to technical materials. AFT’s Women for the Land initiative is about learning the barriers that women farmers face, engaging with women landowners about conservation, and providing technical assistance to better serve women and their communities.”

Women Farmers in California

According to the 2017 USDA Agricultural Census, women accounted for 36% of the country’s 3.4 million producers, but only 9% of farms were run entirely by women. Compared to states across the country in that same year, California was not even in the top 10 in terms of the percentage of total producers who were women.

California Department of Food and Agriculture’s 2020 report to the California Legislature on the Farmer Equity Act states that “female farmers represent less than a quarter of all farmers in the state, and according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, only 2% of California farmers are women of color.”

In Merced, Madera and Stanislaus Counties, there were 6,853 women playing a decision-making role (as either a producer or the principal producer) over 1,517,850 acres of agricultural land, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. They accounted for 8.7% of all women producers across California and 8.3% of the total acres under the stewardship of women producers in the state. In collaboration with local partners in these counties, AFT is making strides to reach more of these women with resources to support their success and leadership in resilient agriculture.

Informative Agendas and Networking Time 

AFT’s upcoming Women for the Land Virtual Learning Circle is designed to allow fellow women landowners, producers and aspiring farmers to learn how to better prepare for SGMA. They will learn about programs and support systems available to women farmers and landowners, as well as ways that women can get involved in advocacy to support regenerative agriculture in California.

During the Learning Circle, participants will connect directly with conservation resource providers, including:

  • Jean Okuye, East Merced County RCD
  • Laurel Angell, Madera Chowchilla RCD
  • Priscilla Baker, NRCS – Madera County
  • Diana Waller, NRCS – Stanislaus County
  • Kara Heckert, AFT California Regional Director
  • Caitlin Joseph, AFT National Women for the Land Outreach Coordinator

After the event, participants will receive information on how to access county-specific technical assistance and resources, according to Caitlin Joseph, AFT’s national Women for the Land outreach coordinator.

“AFT looks forward to hosting these Learning Circles, which apply a framework perfected by indigenous cultures worldwide and adapted within AFT through an early partnership with the Women Food and Agriculture Network in Iowa,” explains Caitlin. “After years of implementation nationwide, we are confident this circle model is a powerful tool for sharing knowledge in an inclusive way. Our team aims to provide a non-judgmental setting that breaks down barriers and allows women in agriculture to expand their skills, develop new relationships and connect with valuable information. There are many challenges on the land women are navigating in the San Joaquin Valley, but we believe that as women we are stronger when we support each other.”

Register here. Upon registration, instructions on participating via Zoom will be sent.

Watch Jean Okuye talk about her experiences as a women farmer in Merced County, including as Merced County Farm Bureau’s first woman president. Her family almond orchard was featured among eight national soil health case studies, which demonstrated the economic and environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture growing practices. Funded by a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, the case studies are helping to scale up these soil health practices across California and the United States.


 American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.

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Teresa O'Connor

California Communications and Outreach Manager

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