How Can Extension Be Helpful to Women Landowners?
Madeline Schultz | April 30, 2020
Women landowners have significant and increasing roles in Iowa agriculture. The 2017 Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey shows 47 percent of all acres and 55 percent of all leased acres in Iowa are owned by women. To learn more about the needs of women landowners, the ISU Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Program conducted a survey. Past program participants were contacted by email and invited to complete a short online Qualtrics survey.
Seventy-five women representing a range of ages responded to the survey. The largest age group, indicated by one-third of respondents, was 50 to 64 years old. Survey results indicated 93% of respondents were interested in educational opportunities to help them manage farmland they own; and 88% of respondents checked ‘yes’ they would increase their involvement in decision-making if they had increased knowledge and confidence on managing farmland they owned. More than one-third of survey respondents indicated they would request a one-to-one conversation with an extension professional after participating in an educational program. Over half indicated they were willing to participate in a one-time focus group, or a telephone interview, to help the farm management team plan new programs for women landowners.
One question asked which farmland management topics were of interest. Respondents checked all that applied for a total of 405 responses. Nearly two-thirds of women were interested in 1) costs of production and 2) ownership transitions. About half of respondents were interested in 3) soil conservation, 4) cash rent and leasing, 5) nutrient management, 6) financial protections for landowners, and 7) estate planning. One-fourth to one-third of respondents were interested in 8) working with next generation farmers, 9) crop selection, 10) communication, and 11) water conservation. Of lesser interest was 12) flexible lease or crop share.
Another question asked how women would like to participate in educational opportunities. Respondents checked all that applied, providing 348 responses. Respondents overwhelmingly preferred local face-to-face programs in their county or multi-county area over regional or statewide programs. Respondents demonstrated a preference for a series of two or three 2 to 3-hour programs over one 5 to 7-hour program. There was a slight preference for evening programs over daytime programs. Nearly half of respondents were interested in online videos and in a series of 30 to 60 minute webinars. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents preferred to join women at the county Extension office or other local place for webinars and other online learning. Over half of the respondents preferred joining women in a meal or other social time as part of a program, and preferred attending a women-centered program.
Women across Iowa are interested in educational opportunities to help them manage land they own. With education and support, they are willing to create more equitable leasing agreements, adopt new conservation practices, and efficiently transition land to the next generation of owners. Extension has a valuable role in supporting women landowners who can improve Iowa’s agricultural economy, environment, and community through land management decisions.