Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women in Agriculture--Tools for Change

On the 100 year anniversary of International Women's Day , I thought it was important to focus on the role of women in agriculture. Although women produce most of the food worldwide, there has been an unfortunate lack of acknowledgement of this vital and nourishing role that woman play in feeding the population of the plant. Oxfam America has started a new campaign to address this problem-Sisters on the Planet. Oxfam has great programs worth supporting any day of the year, I encourage you to check out the links.

There has been a marked increase in the number of women farming in the United States over the last decade or so, which might explain why I have had the pleasure of being surrounded and supported by a fantastic network of women farmers throughout my farming career. Activist turned author Terma Costa sounds like she has had a very similar experience, which inspired her wonderful book Farmer Jane. Temra writes on her fantastic website farmerjane.org (filled with great links, a blog, and other useful resources):

As farmers, moms, businesswomen, chefs, and activists, women are changing the way we eat and farm. They are the fastest growing demographic to own and operate sustainable farms, comprise the largest percentage of sustainable agriculture nonprofit employees, own sustainable food businesses, cook the majority of household meals, and control household budgets. “Farmer Janes” are creating a more healthful, sane, and sustainable food system for present and future generations.

The book profiles a diverse group of women farmers and food activists, a couple of whom are friends, colleagues, and personal inspirations-like Jess Greenblatt Seeley director of Buy Fresh, Buy Local (and recent mother).

Within the state of Pennsylvania there is another great resource-Pennsylvania Women in Ag Network. The Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network (PA-WAgN) supports women in agriculture by providing positive learning environments, networking, and empowerment. I have to say that as a women farmer within this active and supportive network, I feel blessed and lucky, especially considering the plight of my counterparts across the world. I have felt few real injustices. My only complaint is when it comes to finding tools, clothes, and equipment. The simple act of buying work pants really brings to light the disconnect--paper thin low rise jeans adorned with rhinestones simply don't cut it in the field (and for some odd reason this type of jean seems to be a staple at farm supply stores, along with pink john deere baby doll t-shirts). Lucky for all the women farmers and gardeners out there, a wonderful new tool company geared just for women has been started right here in southeast Pennsylvania-Green Heron Tools.
Not only is their website filled with great shopping opportunities for farm and gardening tools specifically designed for women's bodies, it is also a great resource. Check out this link filled with warm up exercises for staying healthy out in the field. If you are serious about farming and gardening without injury I suggest you explore the website in its entirety.

Green Heron Tools was featured in a recent Mother Earth news article, click here to read. Their story is really quite an inspiration on its own. Happy International Women's Day!

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