INDIANAPOLIS — March is National Women’s History Month throughout the United States. The annual observance started as a weeklong event in 1980 under President Jimmy Carter and was lengthened to the entire month of March starting in 1987.
Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, which is observed March 8, offer the chance to honor the contributions of women and their ongoing impact on American society and the world.
In Indiana, this includes the continued contributions of female landowners and producers to agriculture throughout the state and the dedicated work of the women who work for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and have committed themselves to helping people help the land.
“Indiana NRCS has a diverse and dedicated workforce that includes many women who make a daily impact by working producers and landowners throughout the state. Their contributions are numerous and help Indiana continue to be a leader in conservation,” Indiana NRCS State Conservationist Jerry Raynor said. “Along with the many women working for Indiana NRCS at every level, Indiana is blessed with many female producers and landowners who are helping produce the food, fuel and fiber needed in America and throughout the world.”
In 2021, four female district conservationists in Indiana were recognized with the Women in NRCS Group Award of Excellence for their substantial contributions to NRCS. Rita Becker Forler (Vanderburgh County), Jessica Harig (Posey County), Stephanie Mitchell (Gibson County), and Morgan Devine (for the DC in Pike County) shared the award for their commitment to helping people help the land and conserving natural resources in Indiana.
Indiana is also home to many female producers and landowners who own and operate farms ranging from small urban ones that provide food for their local community to large-scale turkey operations, a Christmas tree farm and more. Sharrona Moore, who operates Lawrence Community Gardens on the eastside of Indianapolis, started her farm in 2016 to help provide access to healthy food in a food desert. She’s worked with NRCS to construct a high tunnel and implement other practices to turn her farm into a year-round operation. Peggy Royer and her husband Allen own and operate Wagoner Christmas Tree Farm in Greencastle, Indiana and they have worked with NRCS to start creating a “a wildlife Picasso” of conservation where they can teach the next generation to be good stewards of the land.
One of the major ways Indiana NRCS is working to help female farmers is through a cooperative partnership with the Indiana Conservation Partnership called Women4theLand, which empowers women to make good science-based land use and management decisions that lead to more viable communities and stronger farm enterprises. Inspired by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network’s Women Caring for the Land program, the initiative includes women-only learning circles designed to break down gender gaps and expand women landowners’ knowledge and confidence. The learning circles provide information in a comfortable, informal setting where a small group of women learn from professional conservationists as well as from each other.
Please join us throughout March as we honor the impact women have in farming and our ongoing mission to helping people to help the land. To learn more about Women’s History Month visit https://womenshistorymonth.gov/. To learn more about Women4TheLand and how you can attend a learning circle visit https://www.women4theland.org/.
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service