Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grow Girl! Women in Agriculture

On February 18, Northfield and Carleton Food Truth women gathered after dinner for a dessert potluck and discussion on women and agriculture. Students shared homemade fudge bars while community organizers, cooks, farmers, and mothers shared their views and experiences. What are the joys of farming as a woman? What are the challenges? What would you pass down to the next generation of farmers?

Women farmers are not so different from their male counterparts. They are strong farmers and hold a wealth of food and farm wisdom. These women are passionate about nourishing those around them and passionate about food. They describe nourishment from ‘hands in the soil to plate’ as a most rewarding life work.

The farming world, like the larger society, is not free of gender biases. Women have historically been less acknowledged and visible than men farmers. Further challenges have resulted from the growth of farm size in the United States because the importance of agricultural machinery has grown and continues to be engineered to fit men.

 Farming does not have to require big and expensive machinery. Rae Rusnak, widow, mother, and farmer of L&R Poultry and Produce, stated at the Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association Annual Conference (2/21/08) that people of all shapes and forms can farm. It is true – different people will think about and approach farming differently but in the end, anyone can grow food and grow it well. Indeed, woman farmers are becoming prominent movers in our country’s agricultural revolution. The evening gathering ended with activism. We collectively wrote a letter, urging Michelle Obama, to make the creation of a more sustainable food system and White House Victory Garden a priority. This will signal our country’s potential to grow locally and change our food policy.

 The evening was wonderful because it was intergenerational, a passing on insight from generation to generation, from woman to woman, from seasoned to aspiring farmer. Oral culture has and will always be a part of agriculture – it is the best way to capture the nuances and experiences that come along with working and living on the land. It also creates the sense of community that makes farming both an individual effort and collective enterprise.

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