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Women Thriving in the Agriculture Industry and Local Food Movement

by Stephanie Phelan
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women at farmers market

In honor of International Women’s Day – March 8th, 2021 – TexasRealFood wants to take a moment to focus on all the great organizations for women in agriculture, films that outline the success of these women, as well as women thriving in the local food movement. 

Organizations & Initatives

1) Texan Women Farmers

In Texas we have over 120,000 female farmers working 43 million acres, making up 33% of Texas farmers (source), with an $818 million economic impact.

For the Texas Farmers’ Market’s Women in Agriculture project, they highlight 14 female farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers from Texas farmer’s markets that tell a story of Texas women in agriculture. You can also see how to celebrate International Women’s Day the TexasRealFood way, in this article that highlights even more empowering women farmers. The people behind these businesses and organizations are extremely devoted to what we do. 

We are working hard to bring all of this information directly to our readers! We want you to get involved, show support, and educate others on the impact this will have. 

2) Women for the Land Initiative

The host of a discussion and workshop at the Oxford Real Farming Conference was Caitlin Joseph with Women for the Land (WFL) Initiative.  Here are the shocking statistics of women in farming, according to the talk:

  • 43% of US agricultural land is farmed or co-farmed by women (2017)
  • 37% of total rented farmland in the U.S. is owned by women non-operating landowners (2017)
  • Globally, only 13% of agricultural land is owned by women.

Virtual learning circles in 2020 have gathered women online and research shows that this is a powerful tool.  American Farmland Trust has presented a guide found on the WFL website that shows how your organization can host virtual group sessions as well (there is a tool kit and case studies that are beneficial).  The panelists and topics discussed include:

  1. Beth Holtzman – Women in Agriculture Network (aims to bring more women into the industry)
  2. LaShauna Austria – Kindred Seedlings Farm (started when she worked at a farmers market and there were no black agriculture women in North Carolina – indeginous women seed saving and seed sharing)
  3. Wren Almitra – Women, Food and Agriculture Network – WFAN (works with Women in Agriculture Network – several programs, mentorships, encourages women to run for office and leadership positions in their local community) – Midwest based but nationwide and some international members
  4. Lisa Kivirist – Renewing the Countryside (shares stories of rural areas by championing and supporting farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, activists and other people who are renewing the countryside through sustainable and innovative initiatives, businesses, and projects)
  5. Amber Smith – Women in Ranching Program (works to foster community and women’s leadership as the Women in Ranching Program Manager at Western Landowners Alliance. The WinR program at WLA has been in existence for less than a year. She and her husband steward a 53,000-acre ranch in Cohagen, Montana)

Each panelists discussed what has worked well for their organizations through the pandemic:

  • The guide mentioned that AFT & WFL contributed to shows how you can host virtual group sessions (Tool kit and case studies)
  • Amber mentions The Women in Ranching (WinR) program at WLA. WLA has hosted “Circles” online, with interested women reaching out from across the nation. They created a Google form to share contact information, and over 150 women were filling out the form at once – it was empowering

You can watch the full discussion here on Youtube!

3) Local Futures

sustainable staircase with quoteThe award-winning film, The Economics of Happiness, spells out the social, spiritual, and ecological costs of today’s global economy while highlighting the multiple benefits of economic localization. Actually, the film is part of a much larger project that aims promote localization and transformation in the food system.

And it all started in 1978 when Helena Norberg-Hodge and John Page founded ‘The Ladakh Project’ in a remote Himalayan region of India, which was just then being opened to ‘development’. Over the years, the scope of Local Futures’ work became increasingly international, and in 1991 they became the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), now known as Local Futures.

The project aims to produce books, films, and other ‘education for action’ tools, and organize activist-oriented conferences and workshops worldwide, including World Localization Day. You can check out the full review here!

4) Texas Agri-Women

Considered part of the “largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women united to communicate with one another and with other consumers to promote agriculture.” The Texas Agri-Women and the South Plains Chapter is an affiliate of the American Agri-Women, the nation’s largest coalition made up of ranchers, farmers, producers, agri-business professionals, educators, consumers, students, researchers and many others!

They aim to educate youth, consumers, and legislators. Host awareness events in the community, such as the Banquet in the Field. Events are currently on hold, but I’m sure the coalition will come back stronger than ever after the pandemic. The coalition also provides scholarships, and helps to connect women across the U.S. and build this crucial network of Women in Agriculture. The American Agri-Women also created AG DAY 365: 

AG Day 365

Interested in joining?  The 2021 Texas Agri-Women membership costs $43.00 – $53.00. You can pay online if you are interested,  or simply make  a check payable to Texas Agri-Women- 1180 CR 346 Knippa, TX, 78870. And be sure to follow them on

Films

1) Rise Root Revolution

The feature-length documentary “Rise, Root, Revolution!” started as an Indiegogo campaign in 2018. Filmmaker and multimedia journalist Kate Walker tells the story of Rise & Root Farm in Chester, New York, and the four women co-founders who are reclaiming the power of farming.

Rise and Root ownersFounded in 2015, Rise & Root Farm is an interracial, intergenerational, collectively-owned farm led by Black, White, LGBT, and straight women. They strive to model a representative model of farming while providing abundant and nutritious food for their community. In the film, farmers Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger, Jane Hodge, and Michaela Hayes support each other as they struggle toward food sovereignty. 

In doing so, the film also explores the legacy of early 20th century policies that prevented people of color and women from accessing loans and land. “In directing this film, I am showing that marginalized groups, and local leaders like Karen, know that growing food is the foundation to building community power,” Walker tells Food Tank.

2) Her Farm

A feature-length documentary sharing the stories of real women farmers as they continue their family tradition of working in agriculture by taking over the family farm. The next generation of farmers might just be women, empowered. The women in the film are:

  • Anna Williams – she grew up on her mother’s dairy farm in Truxton, NY.  She graduated from SUNY Morrisville with a degree in Dairy Management. She wants to keep the family farm alive and plans on taking it over from her mother and father.  She is very interested in diversifying the farm in order to compete in an ever evolving agriculture industry.
  • Bridgette Ullrich – she started her own dairy farm, Ullrich Farms, in Central New York.  She studied Biology at SUNY Albany. She works with her husband and eldest daughter, Anna, running her 40 cow organic farm.  She is the proud mother of three.
  • Cathy Berry – she grew up with her siblings on their parent’s dairy farm.  After selling the cows, her dad started a grain farm.  Cathy is now taking over their 4500 acre corn and soybean operation in Curtiss, WI.  Like Anna, she too wants to keep the family farm running.

“Her Farm” does an excellent job at showcasing the changes being made in the industry, nationwide. And how to keep farms in the family business!

3) Good Ol Girl

Among several other credible review networks and film festivals, Good Ol Girl was reviewed by The Film Stage. The film was also scheduled to premiere at SXSW 2020.

cowgirl silhouetteThe Oxford Real Farming Conference has several talks on Women and Ranching, including a full discussion dedicated to this movie. You can read more reviews of this conference here. There are also Interviews done by Texas Highways and the Factual America Podcast, one of my favorite resources for documentary reviews.

These girls hustle for land, cattle and respect across their native land. GOOD OL GIRL follows three young Texas cowgirls tasked with carrying on their families’ legacies amidst a volatile landscape and industry.

The film is a Western, and explores modern farm country: a place where the male cowboy mythology must answer to a new, honest – and some would say subversive – female story. You can read the full documentary review here.

There are some great farms in the area that are run by women or in which women play a big and important role. These farms provide amazing products and are pillars of their community. Here is a wonderful TexasRealFood article posted in 2019 on the Women in Texas Agriculture. Check it out! 

 

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