Inspiring Words from Women Farmers
Women's involvement in agriculture is a tale as old as time and while the representation of women farmers in the United States has been historically limited, women have been operating farms, excelling in positions of leadership, managing businesses as partners and also humbly working behind the scenes to ensure that their families and livelihoods are supported and successful. Women's labor is a cornerstone of agriculture globally and current events in India have given the world a glimpse into this deep truth. Below, we'd like to acknowledge the work of some talented and powerful women who are dedicated to sowing seeds and sharing their bountiful harvests with their local communities, right here in the United States.
When women lead, progress turns in on itself,
Spirals into a rose--
No more narrow arrow of Industry
No more unrelenting growth.
-- Emily Kedar, Toronto, Ontario
Green Acre Homestead
At Green Acre Homestead, at the end of 2020, we made the commitment to not buy any of our family's meat from the grocery store. This means that we are raising and processing animals ourselves and bartering with neighbors. We are currently raising goats, chickens, pigs, and rabbits. As spring approaches, we’ll be adding a full compliment of garden fresh veggies to the list as well as fresh pears from our pear trees!
It’s so important to me to help break down barriers through actions rather than words. Not only am I showing women that there is a place for us in agriculture, I’m showing women of color that we belong. I think that so many young black women associate the hard work that comes along with farming back to slavery. It’s a painful memory, however, how amazing is it that we have the opportunity to do this work on our OWN land because we want to not because we have to.
I also run my roadside farmstand and invite the community to see what we’re doing because I want I encourage them to support local agriculture! It’s so important to build a healthy relationship with your community around the production of their meat and veggies. There are so many styles of farming out there that effect the ecosystem including our waterways. Being an informed consumer and supporting local ag in a way that has a positive impact on the local environment is my greatest hope for those who choose to do so.
I have found that our little farmstand is a safe haven for those that want to support local agriculture and may not have always felt welcome doing so. We don’t care what you look like, who you love, or what you do for work. You want to snuggle some bunnies while you pick up your eggs? Pull on up!
We all know that women in agriculture can stack a hay bale and pull a kid with the best of them. I’m just here to share my story.
While I certainly feel like I’m still learning. The best advice I’d give is to do what works for you in your current situation. Everyone is going to have an opinion about something. Sometimes they are great! Other times you’ll spent way too much energy trying to live up to the expectations of others. Don’t worry about perfect harvests or collecting the most eggs. Get out there, bust your butt chasing a few pigs and face the hard stuff head on. Celebrate the good times because they are so sweet. Learn from every experience. You will come out of this so much stronger and more knowledgeable than you have ever imagined! Most of all, enjoy the journey girl, this life is so much FUN!
Jess and Alena
Golden Foot Flower Farm
Golden Foot Flower Farm is a female-owned and operated cut flower farm founded in the rolling hills of Floyd, VA. As a farming duo, Alena and Jess, we focus on growing seasonal flowers, herbs and various perennials for our CSA and local Farmers Market. Currently we have lots of annuals but as our farm grows we are excited about adding more perennials to the mix.
For both of us our grandmothers hold that place in our path to growing and providing for our community. Jess’s grandmother was a medicine woman in Guatemala and was always so patient with nature. She would use herbs and flowers as medicine; she would find healing in everything. My grandmother was an airplane engineer in Ukraine but would spend every possible moment after work in her garden. She grew food and flowers there, it was her sacred space, and she passed that feeling and appreciation onto me. Both of our grandmothers showed us how gentle and nourishing working with the land could be and how much closer it can bring you to your community.
Both of us feel that these two considerations are important for any young farmer! First, we would say to gain experience, lots and lots of different experiences. Every farm is run differently, with different folks, different systems, different climates and different markets/communities. While interning can be difficult at times due to fair pay/housing, we recommend finding a few different farms or organizations to learn from. This truly has helped us puzzle together all the things we want to be and how we want to run our business. We wish we had worked on more farms if we had had the time and foresight.
Second, we would say read more. Read everything about the areas that interest you, they all help contribute to the vision you create for your own farm or business. Learning about other people’s experiences, tricks, knowledge and overall stories helps you feel like you are not alone and on the right track.
TransGenerational Farm is located in New York's Hudson Valley region in a town called Accord. The farm is a diversified vegetable operation growing for an 80 person CSA, as well as local restaurants. I also manage an acre sized hop yard for a local brewery called Arrowwood Farms. Some of the farm's staple specialties include high tunnel cherry tomatoes, seasonal salad mix, and new for this year Asian vegetables.
There are so many powerful women in agriculture that inspire me. My mom also runs a large beef cattle and commodity farm in Kansas. She showed me a lot about what it means to be a strong resilient woman. I also have gained so much inspiration from the work of Fannie Lou Hamer. She struggled through so much violence and oppression at the hands of segregation and white supremacy. She never lost focus on how agriculture is at the root of community and resiliency. These are core values shared by TransGenerational Farm. Our current CSA model that serves as a foundation for so many local farms owes a great debt to work that she and other farmers/organizers of color pioneered yet rarely get credit for.
If I could go back in time I would tell myself to focus less on the material things that I don't have and more on the personal connections that I make with other local farmers and businesses. These have been the things that have allowed a farmer like me, with no generational wealth or land access to be able to work towards my goals.
Grand Risings Farm
Grand Risings Farm is in Sandstone, MN. We grow organic produce such as: greens, onions, peppers, tomatoes, melons. Herbs such as: sage, basil, rosemary, and mint. And raise free range organic chicken eggs.
My mother is the inspiration and main reason for my work in agriculture. She taught me young about organic and fresh food when she would take us to her community gardens and to her cooking demo's at co-ops. Food is essential in all aspects of life and to have learned very young how our community is disproportionately served food with low nutrition exemplifies the changes that we need.
Ask all the questions you have without fear. There is no dumb question and there certainly is no way to know it all, especially in agriculture. It's intimidating to see so many well versed and experienced people in this industry and feel hesitant to say a thing, but outside of learning by experience, try to find a community that wants to support your efforts. You never know what you can come by. Also, be bold in your truth. People won't agree with all the things you say or do, but that doesn't make situations less important to be acknowledged. The right folks will support you!
At Queendom Farms, I grow vegetables, fruit and herbs in Atlanta, GA.
My mother inspires me in everything I do. She has always taught me to reach high and that I could do anything. It came as a bit of a surprise when I became a grower, however, it brought us closer because it reminded her of her own parents (both were growers, food preservers and fed their community). Through her, I have a direct connection to my grandparents and other ancestors who also inspire my work. My Mom is my biggest cheerleader and I would not be where I am without her.
To a younger me: Dream bigger! You are an amazing black woman with a special gift that God wants you to share with the world! Don’t be discouraged by what is happening in your life, God can still use you.
Full Moon Farm
Full Moon Farm is where my partner and I grow vegetables on a 1 acre garden in the mountains of NC. We farm here in the context that there are many, many, many generations of people who worked with the land before us. The original peoples of this land are the Cherokee and Tutelo. For us, respecting the long line of indigenous and settler farmers is important; and women led a vital role in farming/growing in both cultures. We primarily grow salad mix, okra, peppers, and roots to sell at the High Country Food Hub (think online farmer's market), area restaurants, local food pantries, and our farm stand. I hope we can find more ways to earn a living income and donate food to food distribution centers locally. 2020 was our first real attempt at this goal and we were able to partner with a couple of sites and a grant program which was so enriching and fulfilling for me as a female farmer.
My aunt Karen inspires me as a farmer. She taught me so much about native plants, horses, creeks, fields, the human spirit, our holy connection to earth and life. The wonder she imbued in me has stuck with me through college, a desk job, and finally guided me to farming. She's one of those people you meet and think, "Wow, is that positive attitude always on?" or "She's so strong and comfortable with her true self, I want to be like that." She embodies feminism in a gritty way, in a way that so many female farmers exhibit. It's beyond words.
I'm thinking more and more of myself as timeless. And not in a vain way... more like, let's not overthink this chronology of life that we're taught. If anything, the advice I'm giving myself now is to care more for my body, to slow down and know I have just the right amount of time, to inhale every molecule of air and appreciate it, even if it's just once a day.
Happy Hollow Farm
Happy Hollow Farm is nestled among the rolling hills along the Missouri River. The primary growing fields border the Little Splice Creek bottom and thus benefit from the beautiful silt loam soils that are rich in organic matter. We are a USDA certified organic farm and use a combination of highly managed cover cropping techniques, crop rotations, compost applications, hay mulch and add small quantities of minerals and nutrients. My goal is to give back more to the soil than I take.
There isn't just one woman who inspires me. I have many amazing female friends, many of whom are farmers. They are all strong, independent, super intelligent, amazingly kind & caring individuals. All of the women in my life are an inspiration to me!
To the youth: you can do anything you set your mind to. And ask for help when you need it, you will save yourself a lot of time and headache!
Oaks and Sprouts Farm
Oaks and Sprouts Farm is located in Urbana, Ohio. This is our first growing season! We plan to grow a mixture of market garden vegetables and raise livestock including goats, pigs, and sheep. We will be following organic standards and using regenerative practices with a focus on building soil health.
A woman who inspires me is Jessica Roach, the co-founder and CEO of Restoring Our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT). She is a fierce advocate for justice, joy, and health for Black families and families of color in central Ohio. I carry this same passion in connecting our farm to the quest for community building, food and environmental justice.
As a young woman just starting out, my advice to myself is that it is ok and necessary to say no. We live in a culture that values busyness, but it is impossible to commit to every request. I am learning to value balance and rest.
Levity Farms is located in Morgan County, right on the edge of the beautiful town of Madison, GA. We are about an hour east of Atlanta and just over half an hour south of Athens. We grow mostly "salad veggies", or vegetables that can be enjoyed raw: greens, small roots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. We also enjoy experimenting with and growing a variety of specialty crops for our local chefs, such as edible flowers, herbs, uncommon brassicas (like Tokyo bekana), funky cabbages, small onions, and as many as 50 other varieties of soil-grown tasties.
It's not uncommon for me to be inspired multiple times in the same day by various people in various fields, not just in agriculture. However, at this time in my life, I am specifically collecting loads of inspiration from women who both grow their own food and homeschool their children. My daughter is not even a year and a half old yet, but already I am seeking to learn from fellow mothers who are committed to integrating homesteading and homeschooling into the upbringing of their families. The whole reason my husband and I started farming was to build a lifestyle around the soil, and that lifestyle includes the education of ourselves and our children.
If I could go back... I would encourage myself to travel far and travel often, and to attend all the festivals, conferences, and backpacking trips that I had any means to afford, because one day, I would actually have a solid reason to skip out on those adventures. Ten or fifteen years ago, I didn't have a farm, I didn't have children, and I wasn't married. The only reason I had that kept me from seizing opportunities was my fear of spending money. It turns out, there are some things in life you can never get back, time and youth being two of them; money, however, can be made time and again. Now that I am farming and mothering, I am bound to this land, and gratefully so. I don't wish that I could travel more nowadays, though I do wish I had seized more opportunities in my twenties.
**High Mowing has chosen to use the term "Women" instead of the term "Womxn" to fully support our women growers. Want to learn more? Read this informative perspective by writer and comedian, Cassie Barradas.