$30,000 awarded to assist Aspiring, Beginning and Seasoned Women Farmers in Nebraska - NCR-SARE grant enables local organization to address sustainability in a changing climate

Release Date: 



Kathie Starkweather, kathies@cfra.org, 402-617-7946
Or Elisha Smith, elishas@cfra.org, 402-687-2103 ext. 1007

Lyons, Nebraska - Recently, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) announced the recipients of nearly $300,000 to 10 projects selected for the 2016 Partnership Grant Program. The program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture.

The Center for Rural Affairs was awarded $30,000 for the project, “Women Farmer and Landowner Learning Circles: Addressing Sustainability in a Changing Climate.”
“This project will provide peer learning, expert training, and networking through learning circles of women farmers and landowners in eastern Nebraska,” commented Kathie Starkweather with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Learning circles are an important, innovative method for giving participants the knowledge, confidence, and support they need to enact change. Such groups can become a longstanding, self supporting resource.”
The project will continue through December 2017 and will be co-led by agricultural professionals at the Center for Rural Affairs with a team of farmers in the first year. In the second year farmers will take the leading role with support from Center staff. The organization will hold a series of four learning circle meetings per year over the course of two years. Each meeting will be hosted at a woman-owned or operated farm in eastern Nebraska, and will include expert instruction, peer learning, and networking as part of a facilitated discussion, along with a farm tour demonstrating techniques.
According to Starkweather, in addition to learning from experts, the group will engage in peer-to-peer learning. Participating women are considered the “experts” of 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 and confidence.
“The learning circles are a supportive venue where participants learn about successful and sustainable production and conservation techniques in a changing climate,” added Starkweather. “Whether beginning or established farmers, experienced landowners or new to management, we have seen that women on farms largely share a commitment to environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Most raise a combination of specialty crops and small livestock, often with organic practices. In an increasingly unpredictable climate, it is critical that women farmers and landowners gain the production and conservation knowledge and resources to keep their farms thriving and protect the environment.”
Policy education will be a piece of these learning circles and the Center for Rural Affairs policy team will participate in several sessions to speak about how to deal with conservation programs.
In addition to policy, participants will also have opportunities to learn more about sustainable production methods in a changing climate (water use, season extension, cover crops, etc.), tools/equipment for successful production, business startup and planning, financial management, product distribution strategies, marketing high value and specialty crops, and understanding and interacting with conservation programs.  
The Center for Rural Affairs anticipates to offer Saturday morning learning circles in April, June, July, September and November in 2016.  Dates, locations and details are forthcoming.

Ten projects were selected for the 2016 Partnership Grant Fund. Read descriptions of these projects online at: http://www.northcentralsare.org/Grants/Recent-Grant-Projects.