Landowner Leaders — Minnesota Women's Woodland Network member
When asked why she and her husband bought their 80 acres near Deer River, Patricia Lenoch's response is simple: "We just kinda' wanted the elbow room." Patricia enjoys walking the property with their dog, in search of wildlife tracks. Sometimes she spots wolf prints, and once even had a mother wolf and pups denning on the property. She and her husband will sometimes head down to a grove of old cedars growing along the bank of the river that passes through their property to take in the sights and sounds of the water. And not far from their home, near an old field that she planted with trees, Patricia takes pleasure in watching the tamaracks transform from season to season. "In the fall when they're golden-colored, and the sunshine hits them in that certain way, they can be just spectacular."
Patricia's main goal is to return the land to as natural of a state as possible. "The field area was pasture land," she explains, "and when you do nothing sometimes you can get some unwanted stuff out there such as reed canary grass and some other things that are 'undesirables'." Wishing to be proactive, Patricia got a Woodland Stewardship Plan shortly after purchasing the land and began seeking information about how to use it. One of the resources she found was the Minnesota Women's Woodland Network, an organization whose mission is "sustaining family owned woodlands through peer-to-peer learning and relationships," according to their website. The group is open to all, but focuses on providing a learning environment for women woodland owners. "It's a group of women that are involved in land ownership. They do not necessarily own the land by themselves—their spouses are involved as well. They're very interested in gaining information, sharing information," says Patricia. "I just felt it was going to be such a benefit to have that local information-sharing."
Patricia has participated in a variety of presentations and field tours with the Women's Woodland Network. Once, she attended an overnight retreat that included a field tour followed by an evening social. "We shared our stories. And what was really interesting was hearing some of the older ladies' stories, and realizing how much they cared about their own stewardship, their own emotional investment in that property," she recalls. "It did certainly increase my enthusiasm and maybe increase my level of attachment to the property." Patricia also appreciates the ability to get professional recommendations from the women in the network. "Who logged your property?" she can ask them, "Who was good? Who did you like or who did you not like?"
Patricia sees the biggest benefits of the network as "information-sharing and the camaraderie of having a group of like-minded individuals that maybe have the same or similar goals for their property." As a proactive woman woodland owner, it was nice to find a group of peers. "It seems like this group of women care about the sustainability of the land and taking proper steps to ensure that happens." But, it isn't just about the trees. Another benefit of involvement?
"Makin' new friends!" she laughs. "None of us necessarily live real close together. I don't know how we would have crossed paths, had we not had this group to bring us together."
To learn more about the Minnesota Women's Woodland Network, please visit: www.mnwwn.org