BLANCHARDVILLE, Wis. — Wisconsin Women in Conservation, a new state-wide coalition of landowners and agencies, has announced free on-line “Spring Into Conservation!” workshops on March 3 and April 7 from 6 to 7:30pm. The live Zoom events are geared toward female farmers and landowners in Walworth, Racine, Milwaukee and surrounding counties who are interested in learning more about land stewardship or in sharing expertise, but they are open to all interested women. Registration is now open at www.wiwic.org.
“I am excited about this project because I love supporting and amplifying the work of women,” said Hernandez, who is the WiWiC SouthWest Regional Coordinator. “I believe it is crucial to create a strong network of Wisconsin women landowners so that they know of each other and can rely on each other for support and knowledge sharing. One of the sweetest things in life is women empowering women!”
Hernandez is a Conservation Policy Associate at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, where her work focuses on conservation policies and programming about cover crops, grass-based agriculture, and soil health. She earned her Masters from the Yale School of the Environment with a specialization in Ecosystems and Land Conservation and Management. Before graduate school, she worked in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the John Bartkowski Department of Environmental Health at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers on a research project focused on soil contamination in urban gardens. Hernandez has a particular interest in creating equitable systems and policies that improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities while also promoting resilience to climate change.
Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is a broad state-wide coalition of organizations dedicated to sustainable agriculture and conservation education, with funding from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Michael Fields Agricultural Institute as the lead is partnering with the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Renewing the Countryside, E Resources Group, and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Other participating agencies are Pheasants Forever and county land conservation departments.
“As both a woman landowner and a conservation educator, I have had the opportunity to attend and help facilitate various workshops in a women-only setting like the ones Wisconsin Women in Conservation are hosting, and have found them very empowering,” said Julie Peterson, a Farm Bill Biologist with Pheasants Forever. “Shared space for women with a mutual passion for conservation brings out ideas and resources. It’s that collaborative spirit of women and these kinds of settings enable us to be stronger together.”
The Zoom events will also feature regional soil experts, wildlife biologists, and others who can provide technical assistance and possibly funding to help participants put more conservation practices in place on their land. The group also plans to do in-person field days and farm demonstrations later in the year. One of the goals of the group is to promote networks of women landowners who can help each other transform their properties, and the group will provide Conservation Coaches to those who want them.
“As a beginning landowner, I so appreciate the opportunity to gather with other women landowners in a safe space to ask questions and gain a better understanding of various resources and programs. Some government programs and large conferences can be confusing and intimidating when you’re new to land stewardship. It’s great to see opportunities like Wisconsin Women in Conservation cultivate more woman-to-woman connections that help build confidence and “we’re in this together” community,” said Penny Molina, of Still Point Flower Farm in Brooklyn, WI.
“Women are nurturers …of their families, of their land, of the earth. Women are also change makers and transformers for which not much credit is given to them. I am excited about this project because this focuses on women….and what they can do!” said WiWiC Lead Coordinator Dr. Esther Shekinah, a research agronomist at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. “By bringing conservation to the doorsteps of women of today, imagine the changes we can bring about in conserving the natural resources for our future generations….that’s exhilarating!!”
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. “That’s a 16 percent increase in the number of female producers from the 2012 census,” shares Shekinah. “Though many of these women would like to support sustainable agricultural practices that would help them leave their land for future generations in a state of oneness with nature and better soil health, their lack of exposure to or knowledge about such agricultural practices impedes their acting on these impulses. This new Wisconsin Women in Conservation initiative aims to address that.”
This unique three-year initiative will collaboratively engage women landowners through workshops, field days, farm tours, mentorships, a newsletter and other learning opportunities. Sign up for workshops or the newsletter at www.wiwic.org, and follow the group on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
For more information on the March and April workshops, contact Alexandra Hernandez at email@example.com or 316-305-5581.