By Women, Land & Legacy Coordinator Wren Almitra
In March I presented at the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) annual Diversity Day meeting, which this year highlighted women’s agricultural outreach groups (March was also Women’s History Month). Speaking to nearly 800 NRCS employees, my goal was to emphasize the immense positive impact Women, Land & Legacy and WFAN programs are having on Iowa’s women and, in effect, Iowa farmland. I also helped celebrate one of our Women, Land & Legacy teams receiving an award for their excellence in outreach to women in their area.
Afterwards I interviewed Luis Cruz-Arroyo, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations for NRCS, who coordinated the meeting. He explained that the purpose of Diversity Day is to recognize the diversity in the workforce while providing opportunities to focus on specific diversity topics. On why it was important to include women outreach groups this year in their Diversity Day, Cruz-Arroyo said, “Women outreach groups, like WFAN, are key partners to help connect women with USDA resources for managing their farm business and their land’s natural resources and Iowa is fortunate to have several women groups using a variety of outreach strategies. We wanted to provide Iowa employees an overview of these major groups to give them background information for building their local outreach programs.”
As women in Iowa own nearly 50% of cropland, women make up the USDA’s largest special customer group in the state. There are also more women graduating with ag-related degrees. “As more women are involved in agricultural businesses and developing farm policy”, Cruz-Arroyo noted, “women will be very important to the future of conservation. The USDA needs to help connect these women with the mentors and resources they need to make well-informed decisions about their land, careers and our nation’s conservation policies.”
Partnerships are Essential
Other groups that presented for Diversity Day included ISU Extension & Outreach Women in Agriculture program, FarmHer, and WiN (Women in Natural Resources Conservation Service). Not only did each organization’s programs emphasize their unique niches in the ever-expanding programs for women in agriculture, we got to understand how these groups can and do partner, and also how NRCS utilizes them to create stronger outreach. “Partners in general are very important for NRCS for different reasons”, Cruz-Arroyo shared. “We have partners that help with conservation implementation, by providing people, matching funds and/or additional resources. But at the most basic, and important level, partners extend information about our programs to customer groups with lower participation.”
Palo Alto/Emmet WLL Recognized for Outreach to Women
One of the highlights of the day was the award ceremony recognizing exceptional employees who are effectively reaching more women through their NRCS outreach efforts. Included in the awards was the Emmet/Palo Alto Women, Land & Legacy team, which was given the Group USDA Joint EEO/CR Achievement Award. Two representatives of an outreach team of 10 women total were present to receive the award (see photo below). The group kicked-off their outreach efforts in 2017 and have impacted numerous women through a variety of locally selected topics.
Women, Land & Legacy is a unique Iowa-based USDA program coordinated through the Women, Food & Agriculture Network. It’s locally led at the county level and empowers women to be agents of positive change on their landscapes and in their communities. USDA agencies are critical parts of the local efforts, as are numerous other partners throughout Iowa.
To learn more about Women, Land & Legacy, visit http://www.womenlandandlegacy.org. To learn more about WFAN programs, visit http://www.wfan.org. To learn more about Iowa NRCS’s Federal Women’s Program, click here.