By mid 2007, listening sessions had been held in 35-40 counties, in all regions of the state with over 900 women. Invitations for the sessions went out to all women farmers and landowners in counties, using USDA lists as the source of names. Other women interested in land/agriculture were invited via news stories, flyers, etc. At each session there were groups of women such as:
- The inheritors: widows, but also a significant number of women who have inherited from parents and work in sibling networks to manage the land.
- The farm partners: women who are active in farming operations with family members.
- The farmers: owner/operators who farm on their own.
- And others, such as business people and lenders who work with agriculture.
The process was designed with specific questions that were the same in each county. This summary reflects the women’s answers.
- Women may see themselves at the center of a web of home, family, community, and legacy that exists across time as they think about land.
- Nature and the environment are important concerns for women.
- Financial interests are related to the pride of ownership and the responsibility of caring for land.
These women in Iowa may be expressing a strong culture of their own and seem to see themselves at the center point of a web of home, family, legacy, and time when making decisions about land. Ownership of land is an important value, a great financial asset, and carries with it pride, security, and responsibility to care for the land. They have a strong sense of continuity and want the quality of life in rural areas to continue and families to thrive.
Many of the natural assets named are intangible items like peace, beauty, serenity, and privacy. Others are good soil, good water, flowers, prairie, trees, etc. While production capacity is acknowledged, it does not seem to be considered the most important asset. These women reflect a vision of what landscape in Iowa should be—and their vision is based on conservation and diversity. They have concrete and pragmatic ideas about this landscape: organic farming, smaller farms focusing on local food, good pasture, wildlife habitat, and other ‘conservation based development’ ideas.
Women want to learn more about how to care for and pass on the land. They value that this learning is intended for women, with women. Connections are important to them since they are always striving to develop more connections with women, in addition to partners such as consultants, agencies and professionals. Women want good workshops designed especially for them and their primary needs; for information about how to ensure that land will be cared for, will stay in family based agriculture, and will be passed down through the generations.