This past September marked the 5th Women and Their Woods Educational Retreat hosted by the Delaware Highlands Conservancy. The event this year was held at the Highlights Family Foundation's Workshop Facility in scenic Wayne County, PA. In addition to hosting landowners, professionals, special guests including Pennsylvania's State Forester, Ellen Shultzabarger, and Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Cindy Adams Dunn, the Conservancy and its partners also welcomed four professionals from regional organizations who participated as "shadowers" of the event. Supported by funding from the Sustainable Family Forests Initiative of the Yale School of Forestry and their respective organizations, the shadowers were there to learn as part of the group as well as bring ideas for hosting women-centered programming "back home". Kelley Duffield McCarter, on behalf of National Woodland Owners Association, provides the below account of her experience participating as a shadower.
To view photos of the retreat or to learn more about how to get involved, visit www.DelawareHighlands.org/watw
Through the experience of participating in the Women and their Woods retreat I was genuinely impressed by the land ethic that all of the women woodland owners imbued; Aldo Leopold would have been pleased! Based on their questions and conversations, they were eager to learn and act on new knowledge. But it was clear that many of them have felt a bit lost, not knowing how to find the knowledge and skills they craved. I believe that this retreat gave them new and useful directions they were seeking. Some expressed how the retreat was jam packed with information and left them overwhelmed at times. In some cases participants were hyper-focused on issues specific to their property or situation. I believe that each day, they came to understand that all topics covered were actually intertwined in such way that every presentation and field trip gave them a better understanding of their woodlands. A bonus to them may have come as they realized they are not alone and that there are many professionals dedicated to helping them achieve their landownership objectives. The retreat was well organized and held in a very nice facility, with plenty of forested and natural habitats making for good outdoor classroom experiences. The presenters, tour guides and invited speakers fit well with the overall theme and take-home messages. The lodging and food services were way more than adequate, which, I think, allowed the participants to immerse themselves in the experience and therefor gained more from it. This experience was both personally and professionally valuable to me as I encountered the synergy of the group that grew stronger each day. I feel even stronger that the Women Owning Woodlands (W.O.W.) initiative is both effective and needed. - Kelley Duffield McCarter, on behalf of National Woodland Owners Association