Series of learning circles to run through December
Seeing the forest for the fields and employing farming methods that help to reverse climate change are among the topics that, with virtual tours, help round out the year for women who increasingly work in agriculture or are considering entering the industry.
The Mid-Atlantic American Farmland Trust from October through December is hosting learning circles that cover everything from earning money from forests that pollinate and cleanse the air, soils, plants and waters to conserving and restoring woodlands and securing financial assistance via loans and conservation easements.
The educational events, conducted for the first time this year remotely, begin via zoom session at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 20 by introducing participants to conservation resources available to them.
Participants in the months that follow then learn through conversation and virtual tours the practices and financial resources that can help them improve and sustain their land and better manage their farming businesses, Mid-Atlantic American Farmland Trust Conservation & Stewardship Program Manager Margot Mays said.
“Women have a strong conservation ethic,” Mays said. “They have deep connections to family and in farming, oftentimes that deep family connection … includes the family farmland.”
More than 43 percent of U.S. farmland — nearly 388 million acres — is now farmed or co-farmed by women, according to the American Farmland Trust.
The number of women who work in agriculture also is increasing at a relatively fast pace, Mays said.
Between 2012 and 2017, while the number of male farmers and ranchers dropped by 1.7 percent to 2.17 million, the number of female farmers and ranchers increased by nearly 27 percent — from 969,672 to 1.23 million, the USDA Census of Agriculture shows.
“AFT firmly believes that women are ideal partners in farmland protection and conservation practices,” Mays said. “A simple conservation plan through the Natural Resources Conservation Service puts them in a path for success “
Conservation plans include areas such as nutrient management, and they are a first step for many female farmers, Mays said.
Yet while women are increasingly entering agriculture and taking ownership of farmland, they remain underrepresented in conservation agency education programs, Mays said.
The American Farmland Trust, chartered in part by farmer and philanthropist Peggy Rockefeller in 1980, is according to the organization designed to fill a void at the intersection of agriculture and the environment upon which it depends.
AFT’s Learning Circles, part of a nationwide Women for the Land program, are intended to serve as a bridge to conservation information and to provide networking opportunities, Mays said.
Learning Circle participants in November and December are to interact with presenters from organizations such as the Berks County, Pa.-based Rodale Institute.
Video tours that accompany educational sessions transport participants to locales such as the family-owned and operated Goldfinch Meadows Farm in Jonestown, Pa., where the Albright family raises beef cattle on a diet of grass that they contend helps boost the immune system and prevent heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
At the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education in York County, Pa., participants who have learned from representatives of the non-profit Clifton Institute and Virginia Working Landscapes about balancing farming and wildlife can see the concept achieved on a 186-acre conservation easement.
Here are details for the upcoming Learning Circle events.
Each event is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m., on the dates listed.
Participants register online at https://farmland.salsalabs.org/midatlanticwomenfortheland/index.html and must include an e-mail address so that a zoom invitation can be sent. To register without an email address, call Janice Wiles at 240-626-5209
• Tuesday and Thursday, Oct. 20 and 22: Services Available to Women Landowners; Presenters: The American Farmland Trust and the Virginia Natural Resources and Conservation Service
• Thursday, Nov. 5: Balancing Your Property for Wildlife and Ag Production; Presenters: The Clifton Institute, Virginia Working Landscapes; Second Program: Exploring Federal and State Programs to Enhance Conservation on Your Land; Presenter: Virginia National Resources and Conservation Service, John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District
• Tuesday, Nov. 10: Getting Started with Local Conservation Agencies; Presenters: Dauphin County NRCS, Lebanon County Conservation District; Farm Tour Video: Goldfinch Meadows Farm, Lebanon County, Pa.
• Thursday, Nov. 12: Individual Conservation Reports for Your Property; Presenters: Friends of the Rappahannock, Piedmont Environmental Council
• Tuesday, Nov. 17: Funding – From Conservation Easements to Loans Presenters: Adams County Farmland Preservation; Farm Services Agency; Farm Tour Video: Ag Center Garden, Adams County, Pa.
Wednesday, Dec. 2: Regenerative Practices for Your Land. Presenters: Rodale Institute, Capital Resource Conservation and Development Area Council; Farm Tour Video: Horn Farm, York County, Pa.
• Tuesday, Dec. 8: Woodland Conservation & Restoration On Your Land; Presenters: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Service Forestry and Riparian Buffer Program. Farm Tour Video: Witmer Farms, Perry County, Pa.
• Tuesday, Dec. 15: Finding or Listing Land & Small Farm Programs; Presenters: Pennsylvania Farm Link, Pennsylvania State University Small Farms Program; Farm Tour Video: Jubilee Cheese, Dauphin County, Pa.
For more information, call 800-886-5170 or email@example.com