As the warm spring sunshine and rains were waking up the landscape women landowners and farmers gathered together for something most have never done before. They gathered to meet other women like them, learn about healthy soil and actions that can be taken to nurture their land, meet women whose job it is to assist, and view examples on the landscape to spur actions. They gathered from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences: farm wives, mothers, teachers, nurses, active farmers (row crop to organic vegetables), retired farmers living in town, and the list goes on. They shared a desire to better understand how farming affects their land, how to protect and improve the soil, and leave a legacy for their heirs.
Women learning about healthy soil at the Kroeker Farm.
These gatherings are different from traditional farm education events in that they are not a room full of men and are designed for the way women prefer to learn. One participant noted “When people close their eyes and think of a farmer they don’t think of people who look like us.” However, more women are becoming owners or co-owners of land and they need to have the knowledge and resources to take care of that land.
Helping with the Slake Test (Farmington)
The workshops used a “learning circle” method with the idea that those gathered have much to share. They began with the women sharing stories about their farms and what brought them together today. Women who work at the Soil & Water Conservation Districts (County offices) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Federal) provided information about soil health, cover crops, buffers and more. Lots of questions followed. . Attendees assisted with some “science experiments” such as the Slake Test, which provided powerful examples of the differences between healthy soil and not so healthy soil (Video example of the Slake Test. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_ItEhCrLoQ). We learned about the new State of Minnesota program to recognize excellent conservation farming, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, and how those present might participate. Lunch and short tours of conservation practices on nearby farms followed.
Sharing stories (Blue Earth)
Based on the evaluations the women provided they built confidence in their ability to gauge the health of their soil, increased knowledge and made some connections. Many expressed interest in continuing to meet and learn more recognizing this day was part of a process. Renewing the Countryside is working on some ways to help them do that through our Soil Sisters program. Stay tuned!