American Farmland Trust to Co-host Women’s Learning Circles on Soil Health in Illinois, a Summer of Circles, May-August

Harnessing the power of conservation-focused women farmers and landowners, representing one-third of U.S. farmland, to achieve broader implementation of better farming practices

DEKALB, Ill. — Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, in collaboration with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, announces four women-dedicated learning circles to deliver soil health training sessions for Illinois women farmers and landowners in a “summer of circles” series. Learning Circles provide women the opportunity to meet other landowners, share their farm successes and challenges, discuss their goals for their land and access advice and technical assistance to help them implement conservation practices on their land.  AFT’s partner, Women, Food and Agriculture Network, launched a pilot project in 2009 to reach an underrepresented and often silent group: women who own farmland. This program grew into Women Caring for the Land, which uses learning circles for women to talk about their hopes for their land and to learn about conservation.

 “AFT’s recent research shows learning circles work. Women reported taking action as a result of attending these sessions, including talking to family members about conservation, speaking with their farmer specifically about conservation or implementing conservation measures on their land themselves,” said Jennifer Filipiak, AFT Midwest director.

She continued, “We were thrilled to learn 72 percent of the women who attended learning circles were inspired to take action.  But even more exciting is for 23 percent of these women, their efforts resulted in an immediate change that benefited their land – after attending just one learning circle!”

Women have shared their personal stories with AFT confirming the critical nature of this work:

“Women can be very intimidated to ask questions to other farmers because farming is a man’s world. It has taken me a long time to gain confidence—and to find my voice. It is hard for a woman to go to a local seed dealer and not only get a soil test—but to have the soil test explained in further detail. The learning circles are important places where information can be presented within a safe environment. Women are more receptive behind the change. It’s the women’s legacy and their responsibility of choice,” said previous learning circle attendee, Kathy Kaesebier, Illinois farmer.  

Nearly 301 million acres of U.S. land – about a third of the nation’s land in farms – are now farmed or co-farmed by women and at least 87 million additional acres are in the hands of women landowners.  Over the next 20 years, the numbers of women farming and or taking on a management role on farmland are likely to increase as over 371 million acres of farmland are expected to change hands when farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation.

The learning circles will offer women landowners the opportunity to hear local agriculture and conservation experts talk about conservation and farming practices that promote healthy and productive farms by nurturing life in the soil and discuss the application of these practices on their own land.

There are four learning circle opportunities to attend throughout the Chicagoland area:

Option 1: May 29, noon – 2 p.m. Prairie View Education Center, 2112 Behan Road, Crystal Lake, IL 60014

Option 2: June 13, noon – 2 p.m.

Will County Forest Preserve District, 17540 West Laraway Road, Joliet, IL  60433

Option 3: July 17, noon – 2 p.m.

Forest Preserve of the Kankakee River Valley, 3301 Waldron Rd, Kankakee, IL 60901

Option 4: August 8, noon – 2 p.m. OR 4 – 6 p.m.

The Delta Institute, 35 E. Wacker Dr., #1200, Chicago, IL  60601

Time: Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m. and the meeting will begin at noon. A light lunch is provided, and the program will end at 2:00 p.m. with an option to stay until 2:30 p.m. for further questions, discussion and/or depending on the location a small conservation-focused walk.

Please direct any further questions by emailing or calling April Ann Opatik, aopatik@farmland.org; (608) 963-2690. There are 25 slots available for each session.

If you need an accommodation, please notify us when you RSVP. You are more than welcome to bring a friend or family member, just let us know when you RSVP!

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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.