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Women in Agriculture

Main Street Project

When you look up the definition for woman you may read something like the following: the female human being, an adult female person, a wife, and the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women. We often forget that a woman is much more than that – a worker, a laborer, a caregiver, a helping hand, and a farmer. Women make up a large part of the farming labor force and are often not seen as a vital role in the agriculture system. They are very crucial, especially to the developing world, and are struggling to receive land, education, funds, and the respect that they deserve.

In honor of National Farmworkers Awareness Week, March 24-March 31st, and Women’s History Month, I focus on the women that bring food to our tables. In an article found on NPR’s The Salt, women farmers are growing in the United States. “…the number of female-run farms has tripled since the 1970s, to nearly 14 percent in 2012.”

From TedxManhattan, Changing The Way We Eat, Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues, presents a very important topic regarding women farmers. “Women make up 43% of the global agricultural labor force.” Danielle states that often these women are being refused by education, banking, extension, and research to support them, “… investing in women farmers and making sure they have the same access to resources as men.” 

At Main Street Project, we recognize the importance of women in the present and future of the agricultural system. We have dedicated time to these women farmers, specifically the Latina population. Last year we received funds from WINGS, Women in Northfield Giving Support, to support our training and engagement of 5 Latina women in the sustainable food and agriculture system, specifically on our system design of the production of free-range poultry.

Bob Kell, Training Manager, describes the impact of the funds and outcomes last year. “The women received initial training in the poultry system operation and in small business management skills.  One of the women produced 2 flocks last year with her husband and will continue with 3 flocks in 2015. The other four women participated in differing levels in the field training and small business management training. Three of them have indicated their desire and commitment to operate the poultry production units provided by Main Street Project for the 2015 season.”

A great inspiration to us all, the dedication shown through these women to support and provided healthy, sustainable food for their families and for their community. This year, we applied for another grant from WINGS to continue the work of the women in this system. “The funding from WINGS will help to ‘seed’ the initial start-up of the endeavors of these Latina women and hopefully give wings to their dreams,” Kell states. We hope this project will target at least 4 Latina women from the Northfield community this year. Kell describes the impact these women are having on their children and families.

“First, it will be an inspiration for the children to see the efforts and examples of their mothers who are making some choices about their self-determination, self-development, and contribution to the community through the provision of healthy, just food. It will allow those children to experience something of the farm, nature, and a possible future for themselves.

Second, it will also improve the access of the families to healthy food that they themselves have produced.  That is a source of pride. We hope to also recruit new Latina women participants for the next Agripreneur Training to be offered this summer.  We see that this experiment with the women over these two years could well serve as a prototype that informs our direction going forward.” A great summary and mindful direction of where we need to be headed in the future.

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