On Thursday, Dec 9, from noon to 1pm, Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) will offer a free Zoom workshop to train women farmers and landowners on the importance and development of Conservation Plans for their properties. Presenters are top conservation professionals from Wisconsin’s USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service: Assistant State Conservationist Melissa Bartz and Betsy Doolittle, Area Resource Conservationist out of Appleton.
“Conservation plans are important because they identify the solutions to environmental concerns the landowner has on their farm. They can help a landowner prioritize how to start implementing conservation on their land,” said Bartz, who is Wisconsin’s Assistant State Conservationist focusing on getting landowners access to financial assistance for conservation practices and projects. Other agencies and non-profits also award funds to farmers and landowners, and Conservation Plans can aid landowners in communicating with those agencies. “They are valued because they show a commitment by the landowner to working with NRCS and implementing conservation,” said Bartz.
“Conservation Plans serve as a roadmap to meet the goals of the landowner while addressing resource concerns. NRCS provides the landowner options on conservation practices that fit in with their goals and will address resource concerns. The landowner is the decision maker and can then decide what practices they wish to install,” said Doolittle, who works with landowners in the Appleton region. “The benefit to having a Conservation Plan is that NRCS and the landowner are on the same page as to what the objectives of the operation are, what practices are going to be installed and when they are scheduled to be installed. NRCS can make sure the landowner has all of the information needed to successfully implement the practices and get conservation on the ground.”
The Wisconsin Women in Conservation project (WiWiC) is a state-wide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Wisconsin Farmers Union, Renewing the Countryside, E Resources Group and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) with support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). WiWiC provides funding for women farmers and landowners to engage professionals to develop Conservation Plans for their properties.
Women landowners are a growing demographic. The 2017 Census recorded 38,509 female producers in Wisconsin, showing that women make up 35 percent of all producers in the state, which is slightly higher than the national average of 30 percent. Of those women operators in Wisconsin, 22% have been farming for ten years or less. But women are a group that has been traditionally underserved by federal and state conservation agencies.
“A Conservation Plan is a record of decisions made as a result of a planning process to address one or more natural resource concerns, to better steward the land. WiWiC plays a role in facilitating peer to peer learning of what Conservation Plans women landowners and farmers in a region have undertaken,” said Esther Shekinah, research agronomist at Michael Fields Agriculture Institute and WiWiC project lead. “Conservation Plans are developed and implemented to protect, conserve, and/or enhance natural resources on a property. They speak to the women landowner’s innate nurturing spirit to better steward the land for their future generations. When a Conservation Plan is implemented, a pollinator strip laid, or a prairie established, women definitely see it as bringing their land to a better place from where it was before and helping the community as well. Achieving the dreams they have for their land gives immense pleasure and satisfaction.”
Wisconsin Women in Conservation is planning six regional on-farm field days and 12 Learning Circle events across the state in 2022, in addition to virtual events. WiWiC publishes resources in a monthly e-newsletter, on a blog and at Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. The group will launch a Listserv this winter. To stay informed of upcoming events, sign up for the e-newsletter at WiWiC.org.