Reeves reveals her third and, what she calls the most important reason for personally getting into agriculture, “Our planet needs us, period. Those in small-scale agriculture with select clients will fare the best and roll through a potential world disaster. Think of the list of what humans need to survive: FOOD, water, shelter, clothing. A recession proof business—that's how it's done.”
The salient points made by women farmers time and again included self-sufficiency, sustainability and wholesome, healthy food.
Cody states, “One way to address our ability to be self sustainable in terms of access to health and nutrition, is to grow food for ourselves. Extending that to involve providing food for the community to both generate income and create a mechanism to assure access to good food, makes the choice sustainable. It is logical that women would choose to engage in agriculture as a profession once they have connected the activity to their values and economics. Entering agriculture is a logical extension of implementing action to create a healthier and more sustainable community. Furthermore, the activities associated with farming can be nurturing, healthful and diverse which provides a way for women to see how they can be successful in this area.”
“For me,” shares Hamir, “farming was the opportunity to feed my kids a healthy diet and educate them about where their food comes from. I’ve been self-employed for a number of years before starting my own farm. Farm life has allowed me to avoid a ʻ9 to 5ʼ office job. I love how every day at the farm is different and challenging. I’ve also had a lot of support from other farmers—most of whom are women too!”
Cody observes, “We have worked with families that have young children. If one is organized, women of child bearing age in agriculture works well. As a group working together, families can collaborate to ensure there is childcare to provide positive experiences for both parents and children.”
She says that farming has a diversity of activities which can be employed to match the pace and meet the needs of both adults and children alike.
Hamir adds, “I know many women are attracted to the nurturing aspect of farming. I wonder if this is also because farming, especially market crop production, requires multitasking and developing networks of customers and support but isn’t so dependent on the heavy machinery which can be a bit daunting to those of us who don’t mind physical work but haven’t a clue around an engine.”
This may be a key point in discovering why women are drawn to small-scale agriculture. In general, women tend to be more collaborative and co-operative—they do business differently from their male counterparts. They also enjoy working together, networking and sharing information. The nurturing aspect of food and farming fits well with the nature of relationships and children.
As reported by Sena Christian in ʻYes! Magazineʼ, U.S. “census data from 2007 showed that women were more likely than men to operate farms with a diversity of crops, and to own a greater percentage of the land they farmed. Women farmers also tended to sell food directly to the consumer rather than to large food-processing corporations—an approach that [a] United Nations report has found to be important for improving food systems.” She also reported that “Leigh Adcock, executive directory of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, said she believes the U.S. food system will be healthier when more women farm.”
After the industrial revolution, farming became more and more mechanized until it became the domain of machines that we see today (primarily run by men). The “bigger is better” dominance of mono-crops, chemical applications and industrial, factory farming resulted in a disconnect from the land, severely depleting the soil. Conversely, the new (old) paradigm of small-scale farming and permaculture methods tap into a more harmonious, instinctual relationship with nature, which includes protecting and rebuilding the soil.
Dance suggests that women have always held a significant role in agriculture. She explains that because our society socializes women to not speak up, that this “has contributed to the invisibility of women in farming.” When she got started in farming in 2003, Dance asserts, “All my role models were women. The Saanich Organics folks inspired me a lot.”
She explains, “We tend to have this stereotype of a farmer being a white man, but there are all kinds: women, people with disabilities, and queer farmers coming out of the woodwork!”
Photo by Steph Wetherell[/caption]