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Department of Sociology - Extension and Outreach

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Introduction - Navigating the Waters

Women own or co-own 47% of Iowa farmland and 54% of leased farmland (1). They are part of an increasing trend of women-owned agricultural land across the country. With this change in land ownership emerges great potential for efforts to work with women landowners on improvements to water and soil quality. However, this demographic group is not one that has traditionally assumed the responsibility of land management nor been engaged by natural resource and conservation agencies.  Greater economic reliance upon the land by women agricultural landowners when compared to their male counterparts heightens the need for conservation programs that target women landowners

Navigating the Waters
Photo: Women, Food and Agriculture Network

Ninety to ninety-five percent of Iowa’s once 4 to 6 million acres of wetlands have been drained through the agricultural transformation and urbanization of our landscape (2). In recent years, high market prices for corn and soybeans have placed economic and social pressures to crop less productive and/or highly erodible lands. Management decisions to crop prairie potholes or marginal lands combined with increasing unstable weather patterns—more frequent and more extreme weather events—have increased soil erosion and nutrients lost into nearby streams and rivers and ultimately contributed to hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. Restoration, conservation, and/or reconstruction of wetlands on the landscape provide one mechanism to filter pollutants from water and reduce Iowa’s contribution to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.