Skip to main content

Stewardship Ambassador Program Showcases Women Farmland Owners

Published on
29 April 2024

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County is working with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network to raise the profile of women and nonbinary landowners who are champions of on-farm conservation. By sharing their stories, ambassadors empower others to take conservation action on their own land. Meet our current ambassadors:

  • Silvia Abel-Caines, Garlic eScape Farm in Woodstock

Dr. Silvia Abel-Caines has a passion for organic gardening and nutrition. She also has a keen interest in plants with a high content of medicinal compounds. These interests led her to start a perennial medicinal herb garden in her backyard. Years of growth led her to found Garlic eScape Farm, where she grows garlic, ginger, turmeric, and herbs (as well as raising sheep). She has more agroforestry plans for her property, which is held in a conservation easement.

Silvia believes there is a connection between soil health, nutrient-dense foods, and human health, linked through soil ecology and the human gut.

Silvia is a veterinarian and is currently the Staff Ruminant Nutritionist for Organic Valley, the largest cooperative of organic farmers in the United States. She is also an active volunteer for the NGO and USAID programs, and serves on the board of the National Farm to School Foundation.

  • Colleen Biver, Terra Vitae Farms in Woodstock
Colleen Biver speaks to a Women’s Learning Circle at Soulful Prairies in Woodstock.

Colleen raises her four children while also raising cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and goats at Terra Vitae Farms. Colleen and her family turned to food as a source of healing after several family members were facing serious health issues. They discovered the benefits of soil health, as well as community engagement and connection.

Terra Vitae uses regenerative agriculture practices to enhance the relationship between animals, the environment and the food we consume. The Biver family’s holistic vision reaches beyond their farm, as they partner with fellow landowners to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Colleen practices law in her spare time, and enjoys sharing the Terra Vitae journey by giving tours of the farm. Through sharing their failures and successes, they also share their hope for the future of our planet and future generations.

  • Betsy Zarko, Arrowleaf Prairie Farm in Wonder Lake

Betsy grew up in the wilderness of Idaho and brings grit, tenacity and care to farming. She and her family of eight recently bought land in Wonder Lake. They are thrilled to bring the farm back to their farmhouse!

Together they raise heritage breed pork and pastured chicken. They also care for a laying flock and bee hives, as well as a market garden on a “pretty fair sized patch of beautiful Illinois soil,” Betsy says. She cans and preserves their produce and champions eating whole foods for their flavor, experience and “vibrant life-giving nutrients.” She believes that good farm soil should be preserved, and also believes in the culture-building power of strong food systems. She recognizes that our soils are in crisis, as is our social structure, and they farm with these ideas in mind.

We are looking for more women farmland owners to speak at events and tell their stories.

  • Are you a woman or nonbinary person who owns farmland in the Midwest?
  • Are you passionate about conserving your soil, water and wildlife?
  • Do you enjoy sharing your conservation story with others, and would you like to get PAID to do so?

Join us as a Stewardship Ambassador! Contact Claire Hodge [email protected] to learn more!

Latest Stories