With nearly 301 million acres of U.S. land farmed or co-farmed by women, the American Farmland Trust wants to them to know about the wide-ranging resources available.

So the Trust’s Women for the Land Program will be hosting virtual conservation learning circles for Pennsylvania’s women farmers and landowners, particularly those in Lebanon, Adams, York, Perry and Dauphin counties.

The conservation learning circles are typically done in person in each county, but were switched to virtual because of COVID-19, Janice Wiles, consultant for the Mid-Atlantic Women for the Land Program, told LebTown.

“Women aren’t traditionally the ones who get in touch with extensions,” she said, such as the Penn State Extension.

“That’s why these things are so important,” Wiles said. “We’re trying to help women understand what they could be doing” for water and land resource conservation.

In addition to the 300 million-plus acres – about a third of the nation’s farmland – farmed or co-farmed by women, at least 87 million acres are held by female landowners, according to the Trust.

Over the next two decades, the number of women farming and or taking on a farmland management role is likely to rise as 341 million farm acres are expected to change hands when farmers retire or leave their land to the next generation.

“In Pennsylvania, women are a significant demographic in agriculture, with 32,000 female producers and nearly half of all acres farmed by operations with female producers,” the Trust reported. “Yet women farmers and landowners are often overlooked, underappreciated and underserved.”

The virtual learning circles will feature local agriculture and conservation experts discussing conservation and farming practices, information on how to access support for farm conservation programs, and tips on networking with fellow farmers and landowners.

Registration for the learning circles is free; they will be held Nov. 10 and 17 & and Dec. 2, 8 and 15 via Zoom.

  • The Lebanon County circle is “Getting Started with Conservation Planning and your Local Conservation Agencies,” at 10-11:30 a.m. Nov. 10. That will include a virtual tour of conservation practices at Goldfinch Meadows Farm with conservation professionals. Among the speakers are Dayanna Estades, Dauphin County District conservationist, and Katie Doster, Lebanon County Conservation District manager.

The other learning circles are:

  • “Funding for Your Land – From Conservation Easements to Loans,” 10-11:30 a.m. Nov. 17: Featured will be Ellen Dayhoff, Adams County Farmland Preservation director and Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Association vice president.
  • “Regenerative Practices for Your Land,” 10-11:30 a.m. Dec. 2: This learning circle will include a virtual tour of the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education in York County. Emily Newman, a consultant on organic crops from Rodale Institute, will offer expertise as well.
  • “Woodland Conservation and Restoration on Your Land,” 10-11:30 a.m. Dec. 8: A virtual tour of the Witmer farm in Perry County with owner Jason Saylor is on tap, along with how to participate in the Riparian Buffer Program.
  • “Finding or Listing Land & Small farm Programs,” 10-11:30 a.m. Dec. 15: Participants are given a virtual tour of Jubilee Farm in Dauphin County. Michelle Kirk, of Pennsylvania Farm Link, and Lynn Kime, of Penn State’s Small Farms Program, will discuss how to find farmland and get support for small farm development.
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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.


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