The Conservation Learning Circle

Nearly a third of the nation’s farmland—301 million acres of U.S. land—is now farmed or co-farmed by women. Some are new farmers and others have inherited family land they farm themselves or lease out to neighboring farmers. Over the next two decades, the American Farmland Trust estimates that 240 million acres of farmland are expected to change owners as aging farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation. Many of these new owners, with some estimations up to 75 percent, will be women.

Carolyn Sedgwick, PEC, talks to women
landowners at the Conservation Learning Circle

Due to the evolving demographics in farming and land ownership, it’s important to address any obstacles that these women face in order to keep land actively farmed and in open space. That’s where the Conservation Learning Circles come in. The women-only circles foster a welcoming, positive atmosphere that is aimed at assisting female farmers and landowners, at any level of experience, to become more knowledgeable and confident about farm conservation issues, practices and available resources. These resources could include connecting women with local soil and water conservation programs, with informational sessions on generational farm transfer and estate planning, with land lease arrangements, or with field trips to properties to see practices on the ground. In addition, the circle provides networking and fellowship opportunities for attendees to meet one another and discuss their concerns, challenges and experiences.

PEC’s end goal is to gain insight into how conservation-based organizations can better serve and assist this growing demographic in our area while ensuring protection of agricultural land and open space for future generations. We have hosted two workshops in Warrenton this fall and are slated to keep the circle active in the coming year. If you or someone you know are interested in learning more about the circle, please contact PEC!

This article was featured in our Winter 2015 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.