Selma women turn need into asset

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 4, 2005

The Times-Journal

When Carolyn Pickett and Brenda Black returned to Selma to care for their aging parents, they had no idea that the farmland they inherited would lead to the development of a multi-state, networking organization.

“We started trying to find some local resources to help us determine how we could best utilize the property without selling,” Pickett said. “We ran into problems – just having people not willing to do anything but give us some brochures.”

Pickett said that they joined The National Network of Forest Practitioners, an organization out of Providence, Rhode Island, attended one of their annual meetings and found out that there were other women in other states who were encountering the same problems.

“We came back and were getting so much information through networking,” she said. “We decided that we wanted to put something on paper.”

Pickett and Black began the process of finding other women in the Black Belt area who were facing the same land – related issues, and as a result, Women in Land Ownership (WILO), LLC was born.

Pickett, the general manager of the organization, said that despite the name, WILO is open to both males and females who own land, or wish to own land.

It also boasts memberships that extend across Alabama and into other states such as Vermont, Southern California, Georgia and Washington.

“Basically, we are a resource,” said Dorothy Harrison. “We have various memberships and therefore, we have a wealth of resources that can be utilized by people in need.”

Harrison, the operations manager for WILO, said that people needing information on land utilization can benefit from their timber buyer who can assess property and guide them in timber growth, management and production.

“There are other farmers who are into plasticulture, catfish ponds and other projects, Harrison said. “They can be connected with someone who is already in the midst of those projects.”

WILO also provides its members with information about the legal aspects of farm ownership such as land acquisition, maintenance and retention and holds quarterly workshops that allow landowners and experts from colleges/universities and private and governmental agencies to interact.

“We have formed an alliance with some of the ecology and agricultural professors at Tennessee State and Alabama A&M who can also guide people in the management of their land resources,” Harrison said.

Pickett added that they are currently developing relationships with Morgan State University, Auburn University and Tuskegee University.

“With Dorothy being in the healthcare field and my career by choice was education, we are looking at what we’re seeing in the classroom setting and the healthcare field, ” Pickett said.

They said that they hope to have the landowners develop ways to get young people involved in eating healthier, so that many area health issues will be addressed.

“Eventually I would like to establish a ‘diabetic kitchen’ where we can teach people to prepare quick, enjoyable meals from fresh vegetables,” Harrison said.

“My ultimate goal is to see the return of agriculture in some form – not just the farming aspect,” Pickett said. “But getting more into an appreciation of agriculture and forestry in terms of the ecological benefits.”

“We want to let people know that we do exist and let them know about the services we can offer them,” Harrison said. “There are people out there who can really benefit from these resources.”

For more information, please contact Pickett at (334) 875-7078, Harrison at (334) 872-3148, or visit the organization’s website at www.selmawilollc7.com.