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  • Writer's pictureKriss Marion

Announcing the Launch of Wisconsin Women in Conservation Educator Network: Oct 28 on Zoom

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

We are so pleased to announce the launch of the Wisconsin Women in Conservation Educator Network to convene, equip and support conservation educators, professionals and volunteers who work with women landowners and farmers. All educators are welcome to participate, both men and women, from agency staff to non-profit volunteers. The Kick Off is on October 28, from 10am until noon on Zoom, and will include both a statewide convening and breakouts in regional groups. Registration is FREE but required.

The network is being facilitated by the Wisconsin Women in Conservation project (WiWiC), 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).

“The goal of this inclusive new network is to for the first time connect these educators on a regular basis to collaboratively share challenges and best practices when it comes to reaching women landowners,” said Dr. Esther Shekinah, WiWiC Project Lead, and a Research Agronomist with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. “This launch is just the start. WiWiC will facilitate bi-annual meet-ups like this, as well as regional annual summits. We hope the result will be the development of cooperative strategies for working together and provide women farmers and landowners the tools they want and need to get conservation practices implemented on their land.”

Dr. Esther Shekinah is the Project Lead for Wisconsin Women in Conservation, and a Research Agronomist with Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.

“Women have more influence than ever over the future of land and water in Wisconsin, and we need to be intentional about serving them with conservation education and incentive programs,” said Shekinah. “Over the course of three years, our WiWiC project is testing a variety of methods and tools for reaching and working with women landowners, and using survey instruments to determine what works best. Through the Educator Network, we hope to share our research with the conservation professionals who work with women, and collaboratively develop best practices for outreach and resource delivery.”

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. But women are a group that has been traditionally underserved by federal and state conservation agencies.

This unique three-year WiWiC initiative is collaboratively engaging women landowners across the state through workshops, field days, farm tours, mentorships, media content, email resource communications and other learning opportunities. The project began with virtual workshops in March of 2021, and has so far hosted five on-farm field days and 15 virtual events, reaching a total of 1200 women. A team of Regional Coordinators leads cohorts of women landowners in six different regions to network and share resources as well as connecting them to regional NRCS agency staff and programs. Women also have the opportunity to connect with fifteen Conservation Coaches, who are experienced women landowners with particular expertise in different aspects of conservation. Each Conservation Coach will lead a Field Day on their property over the course of the project.

A signature feature of the project, in both virtual and in-person events, is connecting women with each other in Learning Circles. In the Learning Circle model women professionals and attendees alike are given time and space to share information, needs, and resources with each other, rather than just receive content from experts. Regional events facilitate resource sharing, mentorship and support among neighboring women landowners.

“Women landowners and farmers are an increasingly significant demographic to reach with land conservation education and resources. Through the Wisconsin Women in Conservation Educator Network, we hope to provide educators and conservation professionals with the tools, data, research and support to best assist women in achieving their unique conservation goals," said Angela Biggs, NRCS Wisconsin State Conservationist. "I’m excited to be a part of this Network, and excited to see what we can do to impact the landscape in Wisconsin and beyond. As a woman conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, it is my goal to continue to partner with all farmers and landowners, especially women, to implement conservation that will keep our lands productive and profitable for generations to come.”

Angela Biggs, NRCS Wisconsin State Conservationist. Biggs is only the 2nd woman to head the Wisconsin NRCS.

If you can't be involved with this Launch Event on the 28th, but would like to be involved with the Educator Network, please contact Wisconsin Women in Conservation is planning a state-wide Conservation Plan Webinar this winter, as well as six regional on-farm field days and 12 Learning Circle events across the state in 2022, in addition to virtual events. WiWiC publishes a monthly e-newsletter, a Blog and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram content. To stay informed of upcoming events, sign up for the e-newsletter.

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