Denise O’Brien is a farmer and community organizer from Atlantic, Iowa. She has farmed with her husband, Larry Harris, for 37 years in the southwest of the state and maintains 16 acres of fruit and vegetable production. Denise also raises turkeys and chickens for market.
For over 30 years Denise has helped develop agriculture policy on the state, national and international level working specifically on local food systems and conservation issues. She is the founder of Women Food and Agriculture Network and recently returned home after a year working as an USDA agriculture adviser in Afghanistan.
Denise has spent years as an activist farmer, raising children and crops, milking cows and being politically engaged. Now, she wants to restore prairie, save seeds, support women landowners and encourage the next generation of women activists. Read more
Bladder inflections affect 60 percent of all American women, with a rising number resistant to antibiotic treatment. Now researchers looking into the cause of the mysterious drug resistance have found evidence that it’s coming from poultry treated with antibiotics, according to a joint investigation by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and ABC News. Read more
Women have proven to be a powerful force in the fight against global hunger and poverty, especially in agriculture. Worldwide roughly 1.6 billion women rely on farming for their livelihoods, and female farmers produce more than half of the world’s food. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, women account for 75 percent of all the agricultural producers. Today we observe International Women’s Day, a global celebration and recognition of women’s achievements. Read more
Big Ag is big business–and big profits. And when anyone raises questions about the billions of tax dollars lavished on the largest industrial growers of corn, soybeans and other commodity crops or points out the harm that these perverse incentives do to the environment, Big Ag’s lackeys lash out.
But bullying your critics and worried consumers is not always the best public relations strategy. Sometimes you need to cultivate the softer sell. Read more
Temra Costa is a sustainable food and farming advocate and author of Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat. Civil Eats will feature her profiles of some of America’s women farmers and food advocates over the coming weeks.
Molly Rockamann (pictured: Karen, Molly, Vicki, Danielle) will forever be remembered as the apprentice at UC Santa Cruz’s Farm and Garden Program that made “Farm Grease, The Musical,” happen. This 28 year-old farmer grew up playing in the racks of her grandmother’s costume shop and with a family that made variety shows a priority at nearly all functions. So it’s not surprising that Molly continues to weave art, dance, and music into her farm in Ferguson, Missouri. Read more
A queen of green focuses her first book on female farmers, a subject author Temra Costa comes to organically. Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat, grew out of Costa’s career in sustainable food, and her passion for eating locally and seasonally. Read more
In America we all grow up with images of what certain occupations look like, stereotypes of the folks we depend on for day-to-day functions in society. The construction worker is a robust, manly kind of character. The nurse is a nurturing, kind and vaguely attractive woman. And the farmer, if you even thought about who grew your food as a child, is always a strong, hearty man enduring the elements and surveying his wide expanses of land. Just like the illustrations in our very first books, we internalize what these roles “should” look like. But as we all learn, hopefully, as we age is that stereotypes are never the reality. Read more
It feels kind of like the elephant in the room. It’s not that we don’t talk or think about it around here — indeed, we do both, rather frequently. But rarely do we discuss it with others. For some reason, it’s not the kind of subject that is discussed all that openly. Instead, it’s alluded to subtly, in a manner that just confuses me at first, until I remember that this is a little unusual.
“You don’t look like a farmer,” people say when I tell them my profession.
“What do you mean?” I reply, never able to let an issue go,
“Oh, I don’t know,” they reply. “You’re just little. You don’t look like you ride a tractor.”
It still takes me a minute to put it together. (Why do you have to be “big” to ride a tractor? Why do you have to ride a tractor all the time to be a farmer? What does it mean to not “look” like someone who does ride a tractor?) Until I realize, oh, they mean because I am a young woman. At this point, I never know quite what to say. “I ride a tractor sometimes,” or, “Yep, well, I am.” The subject changes. But I am constantly reminded that to be a female farmer is something a little out-of-the-ordinary, to work at a farm site staffed almost entirely by women, even more so. So I decided to express my thoughts about some of the intricacies of women in agriculture. Read more
The New York Times ran a special food-themed issue of its Sunday magazine a week back. It was kicked off by a fine piece by Mark Bittman, who observed quite rightly that the conversation being had in the magazine’s pages reflects America’s new, and healthy, interest in what they’re eating. Read more