We all have something to learn, we all have something to share
Over ten years ago, sitting on a truck tailgate at a forest management workshop, the wife of a woodland owner said, “you know what? We need our own group, one where women of all skill levels feel comfortable sharing and learning from each other!”
And so, a revolution was born!
In 2015, the Oregon Women Owning Woodlands Network (WOWnet) celebrated ten years of being a resource for women who are managers and owners of woodland property. It was all spured by this conversation around a truck bed with a bunch of women who were discussing how apprehensive they felt at mixed gender workshops.
WOWnet is an Oregon State University College of Forestry and Natural Resources Extension education program which recognizes the growing number of women taking on a wide range of active woodland management rolls. The program raises basic forestry and decision-making skill levels among women through hands-on opportunities. It supports and increases women’s access to forestry-related resources and encourages communication among Oregon’s women woodland managers through the development of statewide and local networks.
WOWnet Coordinator Tiffany Fegel says times are changing for female woodland owners. “Forestry has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Sometimes at mixed-gender events, women are afraid to ask questions and interact with their male counterparts. Often, this is because they feel as though they do not have the same knowledge base, therefore their questions may be considered dumb. At WOWnet events, women can collaborate and learn in a comfortable and uplifting environment,” says Fegel.
Brenda Woodard was one of the women around that truck bed ten years ago. She remembers that conversation. And was so passionate about it that she became one of the founding members of WOWNet. “For me WOWnet has been a joy to be involved with. There are a whole variety of women who have a sincere interest in forest management with a wide range of management objectives. I enjoy the company and I have learned a lot from the women of WOWnet,” says Woodard.
WOWNet member Wylda Cafferata is a newer member but has quickly become very active. “My friends are not woodlands owners,” she says. “Much of what I do on our forest – site preparation, pruning, planting, tubing, road repair and cruising – is just foreign to them. At WOWnet gatherings, I can talk about forest management issues without getting those odd, glazed stares,” she explains. Cafferata co-manages four parcels of land in Benton, Lane and Lincoln Counties with her husband.
Cafferata has made a point of learning forest management alongside her husband. However, some women are not as fortunate. “While I don’t dwell on the grim but real possibility of someday being the sole manager of my land, it is comforting to know that WOWnet is there for me, and that gives me confidence,” says Cafferata.
Recent WOWNet events included a one-day retreat, walks in the woods tours, focus groups, non-timber forest product production, and wild crafting.
“Our events are a time to ask questions and to see what other land owners are up to,” said Fegel. “They provide an opportunity for the women to learn from each other.”
Fegel says WOWnet events are full of positive energy no matter what the topic or location. “The women are so excited about what they’re doing and to be working out in their woodlands,” Fegel says. “When they can come together and share that, it’s amazing. The energy and the positivity, the encouragement, it’s not like any other event out there.”
Since ten years ago on that tailgate, the Oregon WOWNet has inspired many others across the country to start similar programs. It inspired a national movement. But maybe most importantly it has inspired countless female small woodland owners, it has showed them that they can do it, they can make a difference, their voices can and will be heard.
Meet some of our WOW ladies!
WOWnet provides a safe environment to learn, to try new things and to meet other women forestland owners. I enjoy hearing them share with pride their forestland ownership stories. I loved attending the WOWnet Workshop in October with my two sisters; it provided us with a new synergy to help us manage our woodland property.
Advice to share:
As one Eastern Oregon rancher said, “Be patient, but be proactive.” Get out on your property and learn what you can while your spouse or parents are still living. Learn the history of your property and write it down. Get your kids out on the property and help them develop a love for the land and a sense of ownership.
I learn from the women involved in WOWnet and can relate to their enthusiasm regarding forestry issues. They are intelligent, active and resourceful and I consider them my good friends. It is fun to be around them and learn about the issues they are having with their own land because I can relate to them.
Advice to share:
Keep involved and attend forestry tours. Share your knowledge and love of being outside with others. Stay physically active and try to do some of the work yourself... it makes you more connected with your land.
Advice to share:
Find balance for yourself between the work you do on your tree farm and still having enough down time to keep the sense of wonder and joy of being in the forest. Don’t work so hard you let that slip away…. because this is what it is all about!
Advice to share:
have confidence in your ability to be a land manager. It's important to manage, to take active steps, to create and follow a plan, rather than waiting to make decisions until you have ‘learned more.’ There is always more to know, so if we wait until we have complete understanding, we will never get anything done.
This article was joint authored by Tiffany Fegel and the College of Forestry at Oregon State University