By Wren Almitra, Women, Land and Legacy Coordinator
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.”