WFAN Herstory



United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China

The idea of WFAN was born in 1994, when Iowa organic farmer Denise O’Brien and New York state food justice advocate Kathy Lawrence organized a women in agriculture working group for the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing. 
They were passionate about addressing the absence of women’s voices in agricultural policy in the US and abroad. They wanted to empower women as champions of healthy food and farming systems, food justice, and food sovereignty within their own communities.



A network is born.

After the international conference, working group member Denise O’Brien organized the Network to build a national community of interest linking women, food systems and sustainable agriculture. In 1997, a group of Iowa women began to work with Denise to formalize the group as a Tides Foundation project.

Read more about WFAN’s Founding Mothers here.



Leigh Adcock appointed Executive Director

Leigh was instrumental in expanding WFAN’s scope to a national level, increasing membership more than six fold and creating successful programs such as Women Caring for the Land SM, a conservation program for women farmland owners, and Harvesting Our PotentialSM, the on-farm apprenticeship program. She is also co-creator of the Plate to Politics project.



WFAN + Women in Natural Resources conferences begin

WFAN earns 501c3 status and begins co-hosting a conference with Women in Natural Resources. WFAN begins hosting their own annual conference in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2012. 



Plate to Politics forms

A diverse group of 30 women food system leaders from across the country met in Racine, WI, to begin the process of creating a national strategy for strengthening the influence of women in the healthy food and farming movement.



Bridget Holcomb appointed Executive Director 

WFAN partners with USDA to coordinate the Women, Land & Legacy program.