Conservation prospects may rise with women landowners

Farm Forum

Women have owned about half of farmland in the Midwest for years as partners with spouses. The percentage of women who own farmland is on the rise. In Iowa, for example, about half of landowners are women.

Women landowners care about conservation. According to research by Michael Duffy, an Iowa State University economist, most women own farmland for income purposes. But about 30 percent do so for family or “sentimental reasons.”

Sentimental reasons translate to conservation concerns: interest in preserving wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, and general concern for the environment. Women want to preserve their land for future generations. This is often of greater interest than raising more crops. Beyond preservation, women recognize the land provides “physical and mental health and healing benefits,” according to the Iowa group Women Land and Legacy.

Over 25% of women landowners are 65 or older. Too often they feel ill equipped to talk with conservation organizations and their tenants about conservation practices. Sometimes using the “correct” language is a barrier. Some feel marginalized because they are female.

The Center for Rural Affairs works with the Women Food and Agriculture Network to apply their “Women Caring for the Land” program in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Our work brings women landowners together in women-only circles to discuss conservation on their land. They gain the knowledge and tools to have those difficult talks successfully.

More women landowners are applying for conservation programs with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.