By Angela Gupta, University of Minnesota Extension, Rochester
Update: We are planning a March 2014 gathering of women woodland owners in Bemidji to coincide with the Minnesota Family Woodlands Conference. This will be an informal, fun opportunity to build relationships, trade stories and ideas, and learn a bit about trees and woods. There’s no cost and everybody is welcome. We’d love to have you join us! Download an invitation and flyer here or contact Barb Spears (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is coordinating the gathering, for more info.
Original post: There’s been some exciting activity around engaging female forest landowners in Minnesota. For years there’s been anecdotal information about the lack of women participants in forestry learning. Indeed far more men than women attend Woodland Advisor classes.
Why? There are more women in the United States. Research tells us women live longer. During the Intergenerational Land Transfer class we learn about how important it is to get the whole family involved in forest management and ownership to ensure the desired long-term outcomes. So where are the ladies? Why aren’t they attending classes? Are they participating in forest management decisions?
The University of Minnesota Extension provided seed money to create a steering committee to address this issue. As a result of 15 engaged women learning about female forest landowner education programs in Maine and Oregon, studying what little research is available on forest landowners and gender, and reviewing the literature on how men and women learn different the Minnesota Women’s Woodland Network was born. As I type work is being done to get an informational brochure together, work on the Network’s new website, and plan eight kitchen-table-gatherings across the state to try and engage these elusive ladies. The mission of this network is sustaining privately owned woodlands through education.
So how, you ask, is the MN Women’s Woodland Network different from the Woodland Advisor program- the Extension program that teaches forest landowners about forest management? Excellent question. Network organizers plan to nurture this network of active forest landowners through women friendly, low-key, learning activities that increase their comfort level enough to join the traditional Woodland Advisor classes and participate completely. This Network will not parallel Woodland Advisor classes, but rather help feed ladies into those classes and help get a more equal gender representation (and equal lines for the bathrooms). Also, hopefully this network will form into active groups of women that regularly meet and discuss forestry topics together; the more synergy a group can form the more sustainable and active they’re likely to be.
Now you’re wondering: How can the University of Minnesota, an equal opportunity employer and provider, offer classes only for women? Another great question. First, anyone can attend these gatherings but they will be very women friendly. Organizers plan to create a safe environment for women to ask questions, explore topics they’ve never thought about before, and stretch their wings by flying through their forests.
Are you getting excited about this network? Do you know of women who might be interested in joining? I hope so! If you would like to get involved or know someone we should contact directly, please get a hold of either me: Angela Gupta, 507-280-2869, email@example.com or Julie Miedtke, 218-327-7365, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!