Unique Spaces for A Unique Program

Historically, the National No-Till Conference has always offered a Spouses Program to provide activities for those women attending the conference with their husbands. Usually comprised of activities to highlight all the host city has to offer; these events often include cooking classes,  shopping trips, historical tours, and more.  However, in recent years many women who’ve participated in the program have expressed a desire to diversify their experiences with more agriculture and conservation–based topics. American Farmland Trust’s Ohio agriculture stewardship manager, Ashley Brucker, got this message and decided to host a Women for the Land soil health learning circle at the 2020 National No Till conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

Women continue to expand their engagement in conservation and agricultural topics, particularly as we begin to acknowledge that a large number of women own land (over a third of land in the U.S. is owned by women and in many states, it is at least 50%) and manage land (in many states, women make up ~50% of the principal operators on farms). Therefore, we must ratchet up our efforts to engage women on these topics.

Approximately 30 women, mainly those enrolled in the conference “Spouses Program” attended the two sessions AFT hosted this January at the National No-till Conference. Since this was a national conference, the women hailed from all corners of the country: Missouri, Texas, Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, and more.I was surprised to hear many of the women saying that they “do the jobs [on the farm] that no one else wants to do.” This made me think that for many of these women, they do not see that their role on the farm is as valuable as the other jobs on the farm. But all of these women expressed a strong desire to be good stewards of the land they own and farm.

Thank you for providing a forum for women in ag – not enough conferences provide opportunities for women in ag- in any capacity of the industry.

– 2020 National No-Till Conference Women Learning Circle Participant

Ashely Brucker was the main facilitator of these learning circles and really delved into the heart and soul of good soil health practices. She demonstrated two soil health simulations: the slake test and the rainfall simulator, both using the power of water to demonstrate how important it is to keep soil healthy.

Great information, great experiments, and positive influences. Excellent job Ashley and April and thank you for your time and efforts.

– 2020 National No-Till Conference Women Learning Circle Participant

Through this short learning circle session, we were still able to cultivate a sense of community among the women. And we know from prior research that this sense of community uplifts and boosts the confidence of those women who participate. Learning circles provide a safe space for women to share with their hearts, to ask questions without hesitation, and to be able to lift up one another to see themselves and their work as equally important as all the other tasks that need completed on the farm. Plus, the circles encourage women to seek out further educational opportunities.

Women Engage in a Slake Test Soil Health Demonstration

Ashley and I have been involved in American Farmland Trust’s Women for the Land program and these very powerful learning circles for a long time—and it always amazes us how much one can benefit from something in only a few hours. I am excited for this program to continue to grow to reach more underserved communities and meet people in unique spaces and places. There is no greater power than the ability to be confident in your own abilities—no matter how small they may seem.

Interviews with National No-Till Conference Women’s Learning Circle Participants

About the Author
April Ann Opatik Murray

Midwest Communications and Outreach Coordinator

aopatik@farmland.org

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