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.