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Reaching Women in Agriculture:
A Guide for Virtual Engagement

Since 2008, American Farmland Trust’s Women for the Land Learning Circles have supported more than 1,500 women agricultural landowners and producers across the U.S. and trained hundreds of resource providers on how to facilitate constructive in-person learning targeted for women in agriculture.

But the world changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, AFT’s Women for the Land practitioners developed new methods for meeting the educational and networking needs of women in agriculture through virtual online engagements.

This guide brings together information, tips, and tools to deliver effective, engaging online (and hybrid) education for farm and ranch women on topics related to farm viability, resilience, and conservation.

 

While COVID-19-related restrictions were the impetus for developing this resource, online offerings can help address barriers — travel time and costs, and conflicts with farm, family, and off-farm employment — women may encounter accessing in-person education anytime. The strategies, practices, and lessons learned from this shift to online engagement will be applicable beyond the global pandemic.

Intended Audiences: This guide is intended for practitioners such as nonprofit staff, Extension agents, farmer educators, and facilitators who have prior experience conducting face-to-face education with women farmers and ranchers and who want to transition their programs online. It can also assist people who are new to offering programs for women farmers, ranchers, and farmland owners.

Gendered Focus: The guide incorporates both the characteristics of high-quality programs for women in agriculture audiences, and the emerging best practices for adapting farmer education and networking events to virtual platforms. It shares innovative approaches and lessons learned from our efforts and the efforts of our partners to engage women in agriculture online.

Framework: After highlighting key considerations in designing an effective adult learning program, the guide offers ideas, suggestions, tips, and resources for the various phases of an event: Planning, Pre-Event communications; the Event itself, and Post-Event follow-up. Also included are short vignettes of programming in 2020, which help bring these lessons to life. Finally, we provide a toolkit of resources that facilitators can use to navigate specific practical and technological aspects of adapting for online engagement.

Limitations: It is critical to recognize that many Americans lack access to the reliable, high-speed internet that is needed to fully participate in online education and networking opportunities. At the writing of this guide, a solution to this issue has not been discovered, but several local work-arounds are being implemented, including through the use of technologies that are compatible with smart phones and cell networks, workspaces in libraries, hot spot check outs from local organizations, and programs such as PCs for People providing computers for those in need. These challenges should be considered at the outset of online engagement planning, and local communities should be consulted to help design programming that will enable adequate and equitable access for all women.

It takes a network

We are grateful to the many farmer organizations and Extension professionals who shared information, tips, and lessons learned over the past several months. This guide would not have been possible without their generous contributions.

Funding for this guide was made possible by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, University of Vermont, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA under award number 2014-68006-21873.

Authors: Ashley Brucker (AFT), Beth Holtzman, (University of Vermont), Caitlin Joseph (AFT) and Gabrielle Roesch-McNally (AFT)

Case Study Contributors: Wren Almitra (Women Food and Agriculture Network), Cayla Bendel (Pheasants Forever), Jean Eells (E Resources Group LLC. and Women Food and Agriculture Network), Lisa Kivirist (In Her Boots, Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service), Elizabeth Lillard (Women in Conservation Leadership, National Wildlife Federation), and Maggie Norton (Practical Farmers of Iowa).

Contact

If you have questions about this guide or would like more information, please contact our Women for the Land staff members at AFT or co-authors at the University of Vermont.