Enough with the heavy stuff. Let’s get on to squickles. I have a garden full of pumpkins, but I’m not growing my own food right now. I am part of a CSA with my friends Ben & Patricia of In Good Heart Farm, so I’m well-supplied with veggies. Last week we had a LOT of … Continue reading SQUICKLES!

Nutmeg Pecan Sandies

Nutmeg Pecan Sandies photos forthcoming We’re having a bumper pecan year at the Well Fed Community Garden, and we can’t seem to crack them or use them up fast enough. I felt inspired to make a batch of pecan cookies which were promptly devoured by the farm family, but I didn’t feel like the recipe … Continue reading Nutmeg Pecan Sandies

Innovative Horticultural Strategies for a New Permaculture Century

with Chuck Marsh of Useful Plants Nursery in Black Mountain, NC  I knew I’d chosen the right workshop when Chuck Marsh started his presentation on Innovative Horticultural Strategies for a new Permaculture Century with a poem by William Stafford. Chuck then discussed the impending risks of climate change and argued that the horticultural skills needed … Continue reading Innovative Horticultural Strategies for a New Permaculture Century

Local Food Feast: Full Listing of Dishes and Farms

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 29th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference 2014 Local Food Feast: Full Listing of Dishes and Farms Winter Squash and Swiss Chard Stew with squash donated by Eastern Carolina Organics –Acorn squash from Cottle Organics –Carnival squash from Fishel’s Organic –Swiss chard from Way of Life Deconstructed Bibb Salad –Bibb lettuce from Shelton … Continue reading Local Food Feast: Full Listing of Dishes and Farms

Alternative Possibilities: Gender and Agriculture in the United States

This is part of my Masters’ thesis: the abstract, introduction, literature review, and conclusion. I left out the boring parts (the excruciating data analysis and references), but you can read the whole thing here if you’re really lame interested.

I wrote this thesis because I was interested in a big constellation of topics related to gender and farming. More people were becoming small farmers, and every year more small farms are run by women in a profession that is overwhelmingly (85%) male. This increase is happening at the same time consumer and popular interest in small farms and in local, sustainable, and organic food sky-rockets. It was hard to decide which part of those trends I wanted to focus on, because I found every aspect of it interesting. Do women farm differently than men? Do they sell their products to different markets? Were gender and organic farming related, and if so, how?

As I read research on women and farming, I noticed an interesting trend: A lot of it took for granted that female farmers are “obviously” more likely to use organic and sustainable techniques than male farmers–without statistically substantiating that relationship. Women are, indeed, traditionally responsible for both mitigating risk to their family members and for maintaining ties between family and community, but tradition has a habit of being restrictive and harmful to women seeking to define themselves as individuals, rather than merely extensions of their family. Much of this research argued that women in agriculture, by virtue of being more likely to use organic and sustainable methods, had the potential to reform the food system into something less harmful to the environment and more supportive of strong community ties. The very potential they cited, however, was based on unsubstantiated assumptions about the way women farm. If there was no statistical association between female farmers and organic methods, could we argue that women were going to remake agriculture?

Ultimately, I decided the best use of the data I had on hand (primarily the USDA’s Agricultural Census) was to ask whether the number of organic and sustainable farms per county was associated with the number of female farmers, once I controlled for a number of other factors, including proximity to cities and region of the U.S. I found that those numbers are correlated, which suggests that the increase in sustainable farms is statistically associated with more female farmers–meaning there is, indeed, evidence to support the association between women in farming and sustainable agricultural methods. While that might sound fairly obvious, science means using more than assumption to guide policy and action.

And those results are exciting, because if you’re involved in the local and sustainable food movement, chances are you want to see food systems in the US and around the world reformed to be more environmentally and socially healthy. And my thesis says, in a very long-winded and round-about way, that encouraging women to farm is one route to that transformation.

Continue reading “Alternative Possibilities: Gender and Agriculture in the United States”

Food systems

Food is the reason I got into agriculture. It’s not the reason I stuck with it, but it was a scrappy farmers’ market in Abingdon, Virginia that first inspired me to really think about how food is produced in the United States. (I intend to edit this entry with more informational links. Until I can, … Continue reading Food systems