Tillable recently hosted our first event designed specifically for female landowners—part of an ongoing effort (called “HERitage”) to connect and empower women in agriculture. We were so excited to welcome an engaged, enthusiastic group in central Illinois to discuss the challenges and successes of owning farmland. We were especially grateful to have a terrific panel of experts to share their knowledge:
- Becky Leach O’Donnell—Illinois Landowner
- Emily Bruner, PhD—Midwest Conservation and Stewardship Program Manager, American Farmland Trust
- Samantha Knoll, PhD—Group Product Manager, The Climate Corporation
Why we wanted to bring together women in land ownership
There were a few reasons we hosted this event. One is, at the beginning of it all, Tillable has its roots in the experience of one female landowner. Our co-founder and CEO, Corbett Kull, got the idea for Tillable during the process of helping his friend figure out what to do with some farmland he had inherited from his grandmother. It turned out that she had been under-rented for many years, during a time in her life when extra income would have certainly been appreciated and deserved. While Tillable has evolved to help landowners in many ways, our core focus remains ensuring lease agreements are fair to both farmers and landowners, and that farm performance and stewardship is monitored and protected.
Beyond that, women are a powerful force in land ownership! There are more than half a million female non-operating landowners. And according to the USDA, they own more land per person than their male counterparts—but they are also less likely to be the decision-maker on farm issues such as permanent or one-season conservation practices, cultivation practices and others. However, data shows that women are very committed to farmland conservation, farm communities and families, and preserving farming as a way of life, so they really need to have a forceful voice in planning for a farm’s future. Our goal with HERitage events and other female-driven content is to connect women landowners with each other, and to give them some ideas of the tools available to them to get more involved in those decisions, so they feel more confident their land is being taken care of for the long-term.
Over a delicious lunch and even better conversation, we discussed a number of issues on the minds of female landowners:
- The importance of starting the conservation conversation with your farmer. Emily shared with the group that getting these conversations off the ground is the most important step. Landowners must take an active role in making sure there is a conservation plan for their land. There are many tools and resources available to help with these plans, including the S.T.A.R. program. American Farmland Trust has an entire project called Women for the Land that also has research and resources for women in agriculture.
- The opportunities and challenges of hemp. One hot topic of conversation revolved around the regulations, logistics and cost/benefit analysis of growing hemp. Emily shared that the Illinois Stewardship Alliance is doing work in this area to educate and connect Illinois farmers and landowners who are interested in learning more.
- The power of data to help both farmers and landowners. Samantha talked about the work Climate FieldView is doing to help farmers automatically track and analyze data on their operations and make smarter decisions. This same data is critically useful for landowners as well, and creates an important communication tool for landowners and farmers to discuss what’s happening on the land they’re jointly responsible for tending.
- The dedication to protecting the land. Becky spoke about her family’s long history in farming, and what an important responsibility and privilege it is to care for farmland. The other landowners in attendance echoed this sentiment, and clearly communicated their respect for farming as an industry and their commitment to their land.
- The power of community and connection. Many attendees mentioned other groups they belong to that focus on issues in farming, and noted that they enjoyed the opportunity to get together with other women in land ownership. It was clear that while many were well-connected with their communities, they appreciated the opportunity to grow those networks while learning from and sharing with others.
Are you interested in having Tillable host a landowner event in your area? Let us know!
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