March is Women’s History Month. There is a great deal to celebrate about women’s history…including women’s work on the land. Throughout the month we’ll be sharing interesting stories featuring women in agriculture, so stay tuned.
World War I Farmerettes
A generation before Rosie the Riveter, there was the “farmerette”…or “the girl with the hoe.” These women provided vital farm labor “over here” as American men were mobilized to fight “over there” during World War I. These clever farmerettes also used their work on the land to press for suffrage. Learn more here.
The Female Farmer Project
If you read the UC Food Observer regularly, you know that Teresa and I are big fans of Audra Mulkern’s work. Audra helms the Female Farmer Project, a “multi-platform documentary project” that chronicles the work of female producers across the globe. Audra’s photographs have garnered international attention. ICYMI, here’s the link to our Q&A with Audra.
A couple of things of note from the project…Audra and her team are seeking nominations for 2017 “storytelling” projects. They’re looking for untold stories of America’s female farmers, past and present. Submit nominations here.
Also, ICYMI, the Female Farmer Project has launched a podcast. Episode two explores non-traditional financing (microloans and crowdfunding). Interesting…looking forward to future episodes.
Lisa Kivirist is a leading national advocate for female farmers. A farmer herself, she’s also a prolific writer, speaker, entrepreneur and inn keeper. Her book – Soil Sisters – is a #mustread for anyone who wishes to learn more about women farmers. The book provides practical and hands-on information and includes historical and contemporary context for the challenges facing female farmers.
Lisa told us this:
“Amplifying the voices of women farmers adds up to a win-win for all of us. As this new crop of female farmers prioritizes organic and healthy growing practices along with diversified, local agriculture, we hold the power to truly start shifting the industrial paradigm currently dominating our food system.”
Lisa was kind enough to write a guest blog post for the UC Food Observer; read it here.
Women’s Agricultural Network
A number of people – and my own historical research – have shown me that how women organize and network is key to their success in agriculture. I learned more about this topic from Mary Peabody, who is a Community & Economic Development Specialist with the University of Vermont Extension (UVM).
Mary is also a founding Director of the Women’s Agricultural Network, which was started within UVM Extension in 1994. Since 1988, she has worked in the areas of rural economic development and local leadership. Mary’s research interests include the sustainability of rural communities, women’s entrepreneurship and the application of information technology to community and economic development. She is deeply connected to women farmers across the United States.
When I asked Mary what challenges – and solutions – the future might hold for female farmers, she offered this:
“I think you’ll see a lot more collaboration, perhaps childcare cooperatives for farmers. We work out of the house, on- and off-the-farm, but still, many women continue to juggle the bulk of childcare, house upkeep and increasingly caring for aging parents. Things are changing, but changing slowly, especially in rural America. I see a lot of farm businesses suffer as women have to take on the care of dependents.”
Read the Q&A with Mary.
Urban Food Production is Vital
Women are playing a key role in urban food production, too. Some of that work is in helping communities produce more of their own food, through community garden efforts and educational programs. One of my favorite programs is the Backyard Gardeners Network in New Orleans.
Jenga Mwendo founded the Backyard Gardeners Network (BGN), which is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to sustain and strengthen the historically self-sufficient and deeply rooted community by using local food growing traditions as a means of building community, revitalizing the neighborhood, preserving cultural heritage and improving human health. The Backyard Gardeners Network currently manages two community gardens in the Lower 9th Ward: the Laurentine Ernst Community Garden and the Guerrilla Garden. It provides free community workshops, events and activities for all ages. And the program is emphasizing the importance of food as the “foundation of health and wellness.” Read our Q&A with Jenga.
See you soon!