The LA-based nonprofit Food Forward is using the lessons it learned during the pandemic to expand food assistance into other cities, regions, and communities.
April 30, 2010
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.
Enter the female farmer. She is capable, strong, and determined, working hard to succeed in a male centric career. The US 2007 Census of Agriculture documented that there were 306,209 female farm operators, marking a 30% increase since 2002. By now, that number has surely grown to significant proportions as we watch (and participate in!) the rising tide of sustainable food systems, young new farmers, and increased concern about where our food comes from. And, of course, some of these women are mothers, raising children that will grow up with a very different mental definition of farmer than the rest of us.
This Mother’s Day, you have the opportunity to nominate some of those leading ladies in the world of agriculture. In reaction to Monsanto’s “Farm Mom of the Year” contest, the Women, Food and Agriculture Network based in Ames, Iowa, has come up with a different kind of campaign to emphazise and support women farmers. To nominate a mom for the “Sustainable Farmer Mom of the Year”, simply send an email to WFAN by May 7th describing the reasons your pick deserves to be honored. One person will be chosen to be featured in the summer WFAN news profile, but ALL the nominees will highlighted on their website beginning on Mother’s Day. Send photos too!
The $5,000 prize for Monsanto’s contest does not come without some limitations. The fine print in the rules and regulations makes it apparent that not all farming moms are eligible. They must “live on a farm that produces a minimum of 250 acres of corn, soybeans, cotton, vegetables and/or specialty crops (canola, sorghum, wheat or alfalfa); and/or at least 40 acres of fruits and vegetables; and/or raise at least 100 head of cattle or hogs; and/or maintain at least 50 head of dairy cows and/or at least 20,000 poultry (broilers or layers) within the United States.”
What about all our wonderful small farms that are just an acre or two, or all the women that may be leasing land to take a shot at their dream and can’t afford to own yet, much less live on the place they farm? How about the mother’s who have started gleaning programs or wild foraging females that found a successful niche market? Aren’t these valid examples of farming?
Learning about some of these women, most recently with the addition of Temra Costa’s book Farmer Jane: Women Changing The Way We Eat, is a first step to celebrating their work. Let’s follow Costa’s lead and give the gift of honor this Mother’s Day, recognizing all those who are rewriting that scruffy male cartoon character with a pitchfork.
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