Blanchardville – Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is launching a four-part virtual Conservation Summer Camp Lunch Series that aims to address the top land stewardship concerns of women farmers and landowners across the state. All women who desire to better care for land, water and wildlife are welcome to attend. The first Summer Camp Lunch webinar is May 27 from noon to 1pm on Zoom and the topic is Pollinator Habitat.
“Wisconsin Women in Conservation amplifies the fact that women learn best from each other and creates opportunities like the Conservation Summer Camp to connect, ask questions and learn,” says WiWiC Program Lead Dr. Esther Shekinah, Research Agronomist at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. “This project provides the resources and networks to support Wisconsin women landowners in our commitment to steward our land for future generations.”
WiWiC is a state-wide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Renewing the Countryside, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), and Wisconsin Farmers Union. A three-year multi-faceted project funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), WiWiC gathers women landowners in a variety of ways to connect and learn about conservation practices and funding opportunities.
The project launched in March with eight regionally-organized Zoom workshops. Participants were asked to answer polls about their areas of interest. The surveys indicated that the primary interests were increasing pollinator habitat, restoring soil health, battling invasive plants while sustainably caring for natives, and learning more about regenerative agriculture. These topics will be covered in four hour-long interactive free lunch webinars on the last Thursday of each month. Participants who attend all four sessions will receive a WiWiC Conservation Summer Camp Merit Badge.
WiWiC Conservation Summer Camp Lunch Series
Thursday, May 27, noon to 1pm – Increase Pollinator Habitat
Thursday, June 24, noon to 1pm – Restore Healthy Soil
Thursday, July 29, noon to 1pm – Restore Native Habitat
Thursday, Aug 26, noon to 1pm – Explore Regenerative Agriculture
The sessions will include presentations from experts in each topic, regional roundtable breakout rooms, and practical stories from WiWiC Conservation Coaches. WiWiC has assembled a team of fourteen Conservation Coaches from across the state to provide mentoring for other women landowners by sharing their experiences.
“We can create a space for women to exchange ideas and experiences related to sustainability and conservation. I hope that more women will be inspired and empowered to integrate conservation practices into the way they steward the land,” said WiWiC Conservation Coach Lindsey Maas, of Morning Scape Farm in Spring Valley. “As a farmer, I don’t view conservation as an add on or optional. It is essential that we, as stewards of the land, work to improve the condition of soil, water, and habitat for wildlife.”
Maas draws from a diverse palette of conservation practices on the farm, which is a vegetable CSA operation utilizing both hoophouse beds and mulched fields. Maas also sells pastured lamb and beef. “We use rotational grazing, composting, cover cropping, and minimal tillage. We plant more trees and shrubs every year and include plants for pollinators in our cover crops and perennial plantings. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error and observation.”
In addition to the virtual Conservation Summer Camp Series, WiWiC will be offering four regional in-person farm field days in September and four regional in-person workshops in October. An Advisory Committee on Women in Conservation will convene to share experiences and ideas, and interpret the findings of research conducted by the E Resources Group during workshops and events. WiWiC will also hold regional summits at the end of the project to present research, recommendations, and conservation education.
“I’m looking forward to our Conservation Summer Camp Series to cultivate the opportunity for Wisconsin women who share a passion for conservation to gather together,” adds Jennifer Nelson from Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Nelson is WiWiC’s North West Regional Coordinator and runs Humble Pie Farm in Plum City. The WiWiC regional coordinators organize workshops and field days, and connect participants to conservation coaches and agencies who can provide technical and financial support. “We welcome women wherever you are on your conservation journey, whether you’re just starting out or you have been doing this for years.”
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,” offers 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 the know how about such agricultural practices impedes their acting on these impulses. This new Wisconsin Women in Conservation initiative aims to address that.”
Registration is now open for the Conservation Summer Camp Series at www.WiWiC.org
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WiWiC Conservation Coach Lindsey Maas prioritizes building soil on her vegetable and grazing operation, Morning Scape Farm in Spring Valley. “As a farmer, I don’t view conservation as an add on or optional. It is essential that we, as stewards of the land, work to improve the condition of soil, water, and habitat for wildlife,” said Maas, pictured here in her greenhouse for starting vegetable and flower seedlings.
WiWiC Conservation Coach Lindsey Maas and her sons in the lambing barn at Morning Scape Farm in Spring Valley. Maas and her husband raise lambs and cattle, in addition to vegetables. “We use rotational grazing, composting, cover cropping, and minimal tillage. We plant more trees and shrubs every year and include plants for pollinators in our cover crops and perennial plantings. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error and observation.”
Project Lead Esther Shekinah, a research agronomist at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, does research on industrial hemp and cover crops, in addition to leading the WiWiC team of regional coordinators and conservation coaches. “This project provides the resources and networks to support Wisconsin women landowners in our commitment to steward our land for future generations.”
Jennifer Nelson runs Humble Pie Farm with her husband and young son in Plum City. They grow vegetable and flower starts in their hoop house to sell to customers in the Twin Cities. “We welcome women wherever you are on your conservation journey, whether you’re just starting out or you have been doing this for years,” says Nelson, who is WiWiC’s NW Regional Coordinator.