In the Iowa Learning Farms June webinar, Dr. Angie Carter (Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Welfare at Augustana College) discussed several great approaches that she has used to increase community involvement at the watershed level. Carter used participatory research methods to engage different groups of people in conversations about water quality, conservation, and their connection to the land in the watershed.
One project Carter described was the “River Stories: Views From an Iowa Watershed.” The project asked landowners in the Raccoon River watershed to document their experience in the watershed through photos. Then, they added short narratives, or “photostories,” to describe the pictures. The results were quite unique.
One participant, Jan Kaiser, created a photostory in which she underwent a prairie burn for the first time as a way to manage her prairie land.
Burning the Prairie! by Jan Kaiser
“It took me a while to be convinced of burning the eighteen acres we planted to prairie six years ago. Last year, the big blue stem was over seven feet tall and the pollinator habitat was buzzing with bees and butterflies! Did I really want to jeopardize all that, plus the twenty acres of timber adjoining the prairie? Since it was part of the Conservation Reserve Program, it required Mid-Contract Management, meaning I needed to either disc it under or burn it. On a still and humid evening, the fire folks lit the blaze under a full moon. A beautiful sight – and it all went off without a hitch!”
Watch the archived webinar to hear about how Angie Carter used this and other participatory methods to create community in watersheds. Carter’s work can be used for any group in a watershed that has not previously been brought into the conversation about water quality and conservation.
Angie Carter was also featured on the Iowa Learning Farms podcast, Conservation Chat, in November of 2015. The episode discusses women landowners and the role they play in conservation practice adoption here in Iowa.