About River Stories

We welcome you to River Stories: Views from an Iowa Watershed!

Women own or co-own almost half of Iowa’s farmland. Our agricultural watersheds are currently receiving a lot of attention from policymakers, media, activists, and scientists, but we seldom hear stories from those who own this land.

Betty Wells, Jean Eells, and Angie Carter have studied women farmland owners and conservation, and have led programming for women farmland owners in Iowa through the Women, Food and Agriculture Network. Together, we wondered what stories might women landowners share about their experiences in their watersheds? How might we engage conversations about our watersheds, and our land, in new and different ways?

In the fall of 2015, Wells, Eells, and Carter led two Women Caring for the Land Learning Circles through Women, Food and Agriculture Network with funding from the Toyota TogetherGreen program in Coon Rapids and Jefferson, Iowa. At these meetings, Carter shared information about this upcoming Photovoice project and recruited participants.

Six women landowners took part in this project. Together, Patti Naylor, Colleen Radebaugh, Chris Henning, Courtney Turnis, Jan Kaiser, and Danielle Wirth determined the scope of their Photostories and created this exhibit. In the spring of 2016, the group met twice in-person and twice by phone to plan, share, and organize photos for this collective project.

The exhibit was first shared in June 2016 at the Perry Town/Crafty Center. Since that time, the exhibit has been shown at Brenton Arboretum (2016), Central Iowa Arboretum (2016), Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens (2017), the Des Moines Public Library (2019), and the annual conferences of Women, Food and Agriculture Network (2016) and Practical Farmers of Iowa conference (2017).

Photovoice is a community-based process that uses photography and group dialogue to understand topics of importance or concern within a community. Photovoice is different than documentary photography in that it prioritizes participants’ own experiences. Community members, rather than an outside photographer, take pictures of their community. The resulting photos and captions, or “photostories,” have multiple benefits as a source of knowledge for participants and the community at large. These photostories are both data and tools for dialogue, education, or action.

We thank you for your interest in the project! We would be glad to share some or all of these photostories on display at a venue in your community or at an upcoming event, or to present this process to your group.

The River Stories project team: (L to R) Betty Wells, Courtney Turnis, Danielle Wirth, Angie Carter, Patti Naylor, Colleen Radebaugh, Jan Kaiser, Chris Henning Photo: David Carter