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

“Climate Stressors and Solutions: Your Land, Your Leadership” virtual event will allow networking and knowledge sharing among women farmers and agricultural landowners in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties 

July 29, 2020SACRAMENTO, 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 people who identify as women and are stewards of agricultural land in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties.  The virtual event will be held on Aug. 5 and Aug. 12, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., via Zoom. 

Focused on “Climate Stressors and Solutions: Your Land, Your Leadership,” the AFT Learning Circle will connect women in agriculture so they can share climate change-related stressors they are experiencing and learn about the latest research and technical resources available on regenerative agriculture approaches 

“Farmers can see first-hand the climatic changes occurring, so they need help transitioning to environmentally sound agriculture that conserves resources and protects resilient food sources,” explains Kara Heckert, AFT’s California regional director. “Women farmers, however, are often overlooked, underappreciated and underserved. They experience gender bias and rarely have 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 and policy reforms to better serve women.” 

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 Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties there were 4,129 women playing a decision-making role over 856,994 acres of agricultural land, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. They accounted for 9% of all women producers across California and 8% 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, including Spanish-speaking women, with resources to support their success and leadership in agriculture. 

As AFT implementation partner Hilary Phillips, District Conservationist for NRCS San Luis Obispo County, explains, “It has been a lifetime passion of mine to get women to participate more fully in all aspects of society, and now I’m poised to support that effort in agriculture. I was previously the Federal Women’s Program Manager in CA, as part of CA NRCS’s civil rights committee. One challenge in this work is that we do not have a separate program mechanism to work with women farmers, like we do with beginning farmers, veterans and other underserved groups of farmers. We do not have separate pots of funding for reaching women specifically. So, I am glad that AFT is taking on this effortelevating the fact that women farmers and ranchers deal with a variety of social bias, and taking the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue so important in today’s climate.” 

Informative Agendas and Time for Networking  

AFT’s upcoming Women for the Land Virtual Learning Circle is designed to allow fellow women landowners, producers and aspiring farmers to hear about climate change impacts on agriculture in the Central Coast region. 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 climatesmart agriculture in California. 

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

Emma Chow, NRCS Santa Barbara County 

Anna Olsen, Cachuma Resource Conservation District 

Amy Smart, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District 

Hallie Richard, Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District 

Lauren Parker, USDA Climate Hubs 

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 CaitlinAfter years of implementation around the country, we are confident this circle model is a powerful tool for sharing knowledge in an inclusive, relational way. Our team aims to provide a non-judgmental, non-hierarchical setting that breaks down barriers and allows women in agriculture to expand their skills, develop new relationships and connect with valuable information. We welcome all womenand we will provide EnglishtoSpanish language translation for those who require it. Together we are stronger.” 

Register here!Information on how to participate will be sent after you register. 

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 NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, the case studies are helping to scale up these soil health practices across California and the United States. Jean is partnering with AFT to implement Women for the Land Learning Circles in the San Joaquin Valley in the coming months.  

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 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. 

Women for the Land

Statistics don’t lie. The future of agriculture is increasingly female. There are now nearly one million women farm operators and over half-a-million additional women landowners who lease their land to farmers. Many of these women have a strong conservation ethic and are deeply committed to healthy farmland, farm families, and farm communities.

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About the Author
Teresa O'Connor

California Communications and Outreach Manager

toconnor@farmland.org

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