Women circle around sustainable farming

Since April, the Center, along with a small group of women farmer leaders, has co-led the first two in a series of Women Farmer Learning Circles on sustainable farming in a changing climate. Participating women are considered the “experts” on their own production, farmland, and conservation needs, and are encouraged to speak about their own experiences and goals rather than passively listen to a professional in a traditional lecture format. This format builds knowledge, confidence, and community around topics the group is most interested in exploring.

The first two circles on small tools and equipment, and post-harvest handling + soil health, were hosted by Chloe Diegel at Robinette Farms near Martell, Neb. With nearly 35 attendees between the two gatherings, women were capitalizing on this format to obtain the knowledge, confidence, and support they need to enact change. Women asked questions and shared with one another best practices for food safety, their post-harvest handling work flow, soil health tips, preferred planning and methodology for cover cropping and more. Resources were shared prior, during, and after the circles as well.

It is exciting to watch a community grow around these circles as the women become acquainted with another - many already know one another. Feedback from one woman who is new to farming (and the sustainable ag community) was that she appreciated how welcome she felt. Rural life can be hard, especially for women who often wear many hats and play many roles out of necessity. It’s beautiful to discover that women are supporting one another’s work in what is largely a male dominated industry in our region.

Are you a woman who is new to farming? Interested in expanding or diversifying? Or are you a farming veteran who wants to share best practices and learn from other women? Invest in yourself (your time only, these learning circles are FREE), and join a circle!

Attendees may join one, all, or select topics of interest:

July 9 – Topic:  Small livestock and meat production tour begins at Davey Road Ranch and ends at Branched Oak North Farm, Raymond, Neb.

Sept. 10 – Topic: Working with NRCS & FSA programs, and Hoop Houses, Common Good Farm, Raymond, Neb.

Oct. 29 – Topic: Plant Nursery & Greenhouse sales, and Working with Conservation Programs, tour begins at Great Plains Nursery, Weston, Neb. and ends with lunch at Prairie Plate Restaurant at Lakehouse Farm, Waverly, Neb.

If you're unable to attend these events and would like to learn more about our Women's Learning Circles, feel free to contact me, Sandra Renner, at sandrar@cfra.org.

The Women's Learning Circle series is sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs and supported by USDA funding through SARE - Sustainable Ag Research Education: Grants and outreach to advance sustainable innovations to the whole of American agriculture.