Evergreen inspired by Women, Food, and Agriculture Network conference

As an intern, Lu Evergreen worked with a woman farmer who ran an organic vegetable and poultry farm in the Snoqualmie Valley Region of Washington.

The seasoned owner taught Evergreen about growing food and running a profitable, sustainable operation. After one season, the intern decided she wanted to grow food and farm using sustainable practices.

Evergreen is an education coordinator for Green Iowa AmeriCorps, and lives in Fairfield, Iowa.To learn more about farming, she sought out conferences and events to attend in her free time. One of those she found was the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) annual conference, where women share information needed to be effective practitioners of sustainable agriculture and healthy localized food systems.

“I looked into WFAN further, as well as the workshops offered at their conference, and I knew I had to be there,” said Evergreen. “I applied to the Center for Rural Affairs for a scholarship, was accepted. I was thrilled I’d be able to attend.”

The Center for Rural Affairs, in coordination with Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education, offered scholarships to eight women from Nebraska and Iowa to attend the conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

The keynote speaker was LaDonna Redmond, a long-time community activist who urged Chicago Public Schools to evaluate junk food, launched urban agriculture projects, started a community grocery store, and worked on federal farm policies to expand access to healthy food in low-income communities.

Redmond’s speech addressed the idea that the food system was built on the exploitation of land and people. A message that struck a chord with Evergreen.

“Part of my job is to connect young, at-risk, low-income minorities with healthy food and the knowledge to produce healthy food,” said Evergreen. “These issues were being addressed head-on in the keynote speech and through workshops, which was both very powerful and very inspiring.”

Comments from select scholarship recipients:

Julia Slocum, Ames, Iowa

“Women of older generations who spoke out, took up positions in ag organizations and in local politics, challenged the assumption that only men farmed and women were the farm wives – these women are who made it possible for me to farm. I left [the conference] feeling deeply grateful for all their work, perseverance, and courage.”

Kim Anderson, Brighton, Iowa

“It was inspiring and empowering to see that many women who are involved in agriculture and food and who are like-minded. What fun, powerful, and fearless women!”

Emma Stewart, Rockwell City, Iowa

“I came away with a lot more confidence and knowledge on everything from pesticide drift, to CAFOs, to sustainable farming methods. I look forward to using what I learned to help grow my own little garden, improve and expand my town's community gardens, and using this experience as a stepping stone toward a future political career.”

Yolanda Bailey, Brainard, Nebraska   

“I found the speakers to be quite interesting. They had key experience in their subjects, and gave good presentations with helpful handouts.”

Comments from Center staff:

Kirstin Bailey, Brainard, Nebraska

“I tried to collect information that would better our content at the Center, and be helpful to the people I work with. For example, we hear a lot about drift, so it was important to me to hear how other farmers are dealing with it, and how we can apply that to Nebraska farms.”

Lucia Schulz, Columbus, Nebraska

“This wonderful organization is very concerned with topics such as land access and empowering women to continue working with their land. WFAN truly supports, cares, and encourages women farmers.”

Anna Johnson, Ames, Iowa

“WFAN was founded 20 years ago by a group of women who wanted to work specifically on gender and food systems. At the conference, we got the chance to mark that passage of time and honor those women. Seeing the founding mothers again, and watching the younger generation meet them and get to know them was really wonderful.”

For those who could not attend the conference, click here to learn more.

WFAN’s 21st annual conference will take place Nov. 2 to 3, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa. For conference updates, click here.