By Angela Gupta, University of Minnesota Extension, Rochester
April 2014 Update:
MN Women’s Woodland Network Gathering
On Friday, March 14 nineteen women woodland owners gathered in Bemidji to “talk trees”, learn more about caring for their woodlands, meet with female natural resources professionals, and learn about the MN Women’s Woodland Network and how they can become involved or start a network in their local area.
Many stories were shared and questions asked about woodland management and we played a woodland version of the TV game “Jeopardy” to quiz participants on their woodland knowledge. There was also a speed networking session where Jana Albers (DNR Forest Health Specialist), Sue Brokl (Consulting Forester), Katie Haws (Retired DNR Non-game Wildlife Specialist), Julie Miedtke (UMN Extension Forester) and Marge Sella (NRCS District Conservationist) moved between 5 tables every 15 minutes for direct dialogue with participants. One exciting outcome of this day is the start of a MN Women’s Woodland Network in the Bemidji area with several women volunteering to help plan upcoming events or host a walk in their woods.
The toolkit “Growing Your Peer Learning Network: Tools and Tips from the Women Owning Woodlands Network” produced by Oregon State University was used to help plan this gathering. The toolkit “focuses on the nuts and bolts of designing, forming, holding, and maintaining a peer-learning group, whether the group you want to reach is women woodland owners or any other group of people who have similar goals for learning.”
Funding for this event was provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the University of Minnesota and Oregon State University to help develop women woodland networks nationwide. A similar event is being planned with the WI Woodland Owners Association on April 26 in Steven’s Point, WI.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or Julie Miedtke, 218-327-7365, email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!