Reaching Women Landowners & Farmers


Perennial Systems Conservation: Reaching Women Landowners & Farmers

Why Women Landowners?

Nearly 50% of Iowa farmland is owned by women, many of whom are non-operating landowners. Additionally, women farmers are on the rise, with women and other historically underserved producers making up a majority of new and beginning farmers. Given these trends, it is crucial for agricultural organizations to support women landowners and farmers as active partners in conservation. The following data was gathered from American Farmland Trust Women for the Land Learning Circles, which sought to determine the conservation needs of women. The program combined research-based, participatory methods to create peer-to-peer spaces for women in agriculture to share their expertise and experiences with one another.

I stopped by to show the [prairie] strips to a friend and she took a delightful photo of me drowning in a sea of monarchs.

~ American Farmland Trust Learning Circle Partcipant


Motivations for Adopting Prairie

Women are excited about the potential for prairie strips, with many specifically interested in a multitude of benefits, including: 

  • Pollinator and other wildlife habitat
  • On-farm diversity
  • Grazing potential
  • Utilization of marginal land
  • Aesthetic appreciation

For me the toughest part is talking to our tenant to saying 'Hey, this is what we want you to do for us.' And it's kind of a difficult conversation to have, considering the first and only time I've actually met him was at my dad's funeral.

~American Farmland Trust Learning Circles Participant


Women Face Distinct Barriers

Women navigate various challenges, some of which are barriers related to gender, while other factors might directly influence their ability to manage prairie on their land. One of the biggest challenges for many women landowners is dealing with landowner/tenant dynamics in addition to navigating different priorities when managing land with a spouse or other family members. Women landowners also face management challenges that all landowners and farmers might face while adopting prairie strips, including:

  • Establishing and maintaing the prairie, particulary in the early years.
  • Navigating conservation programs and resources at state, federal, and local levels.
  • Scaling prairie to fit diversified production system that are not conventional row crop operations

My kind of frustration is that it seems like.... there's a lot of overlap in a lot of different programs and organizations. And you can kind of get overwhelmed or fall in a rabbit hole when you're trying to find which one's more appropriate, which ones fit?

~American Farmland Trust Learning Circles Partcipant


Landowner & Tenant Relationship Barriers & Accessing Resources

Recognizing the necessity for programming focused on women's needs involving peer-to-peer learning can bring important relationships between landowners and tenants to the forefront by encouraging women landowners to engage in post-session conversations about what was learned with land operators. This approach acknowledges that this process is complex and rarely straightforward. Women non-operators have commented that they are trying not to "rock the boat" to maintain long-term relationships with tenants, family and community members. Women have emphasized the pressure they feel to maintain harmony. At times, a landowner may seek to find a new tenant if the parties cannot develop a shared approach for land management. Peer support can enable women landowners to secure technical and financial assistance and overcome barriers such as isolation in their communities. For women landowners, building awareness of practices and revelant programs can boost confidence and help them negotiate to meet their land management goals.


Outreach Strategies

Women farmers and farm landowners have particular training needs and a strong desire to learn more. Many obstacles point to universal challenges and motivations, while some are unique to their experiences as women. Targeting outreach specifically designed with women in mind can improve their confidence and motivate them to take a greater number of conservation actions. To reach women landowners and farmers more effecively consider the following:

  • Design outreach programs with women in mind and conduct targeted outreach with them.
  • Strategize with women landowners on how to engage tenants or family members who may be skeptical about adopting new practices. Consider inviting the landowner and tenant to a meeting to learn more about the practice.
  • Support them in navigating insitutional programs that could assist them in adopting prairie strips. Consider sitting "second chair" with them as a guide as they apply for new programs and explore relevant resources.

I have enjoyed watching how the inclusion of diversity has brought animals around, now I have fewer problems with the screen that is right next to my house. It just looks much nicer. It really does. And by the way, those beneficial animals and insects and whatnot, they helped me in making my farming situtation better.

~American Farmland Trust Learning Circles Participant