The notion of living self-sufficiently off the land has long been an American ideal, particularly in times of crisis. So it’s no surprise that the turmoil of recent decades— from 9/11 and the breakdown of the financial system to continuous war and the existential threat of climate change—has spurred another such movement. In FERN's latest story, published with Virginia Quarterly Review, Michael Meyer takes us inside the National Ladies Homestead Gathering, which Cyndi Ball founded in 2011 at her home in Georgia. The organization has since grown to 34 chapters in 17 states located all across the country, and the goal is someday to have a chapter within 30 minutes of every woman in America.(No paywall)
A new project, dubbed “Hatching Hope,” aims to improve the livelihoods of 100 million people, focusing on women farmers, in the coming decade through chicken farming, which is seen as a quick way to produce food at home and for sale in town.
A new bill in California aims to better support the state’s minority and female farmers. The Farmer Equity Act of 2017 “applies to producers that have been federally classified as ‘socially disadvantaged,’ which includes people in groups whose members have been subject to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice,” says Civil Eats.
The nonpartisan Plate to Politics program describes its goal as strengthening the “leadership role of women transforming our nation’s food system, from the federal agriculture policy agenda to what’s on our family’s dinner plate.“
Women make up two-fifths of the agricultural work force in developing countries yet are often at a disadvantage in gaining access to land, credit, training and "inputs" such as seed and fertilizer, says the Farming First coalition. A research paper underlines that point by looking at differences in fertilizer use by women and men farmers.
Hunger experts at an FAO meeting in Rome said that if women farmers had the same access as men to land, tools, and credit, crop yields would rise by at least a third and there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world, Reuters reports.
Half the seats in Midwest ag schools are filled by female students, but it’s the men in the classes who are likely to return home to run the farm. One communications teacher at Iowa State observed the difference first-hand when she assigned a film project and found that none of her female students planned on returning to manage their family’s farm, writes Harvest Public Media.
As the global population zooms toward an estimated 9.7 billion people at mid-century, a 34-percent increase in 35 years, more and more of them will live in cities. "By 2050, 66 percent of the world's people are expected to live in cities, fueling unprecedented demand for food," says a report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
In North America, women more commonly are the farmer's wife than the farmer, notes Modern Farmer. In Canada, 27 percent of farm operators are women. In the United States, 14 percent of farms are headed by women.
For those who like their food and ag statistics in graphical or map format, here is a trio: