Becky L. Jacobs

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The European Conference on Sustainability, Energy & the Environment 2018 - Official Conference Proceedings


An increasing number of women are choosing to pursue careers in agriculture. A higher percentage of women are represented among sustainable farmers than are counted among conventional farmers. For example, in the United States, this percentage is 21percent as compared to 9percent. The way in which women farmers approach sustainable agriculture is consistent with the feminist ethic of care that encompasses responsibility, nurturing, relationality, and interdependence. These characteristics are expressed in a number of ways on women-owned or operated sustainable farms. Their farms, for example, have fewer acres than those of male farmers; they plant, cultivate, and harvest by hand much more than with heavy equipment; and they only very rarely use inorganic fertilizers. Also, their operations are more diversified. Women who farm also have a record of developing strong networks with their fellow women farmers. Thus, these sisters in sustainability appear to be applying gender-normativity to organic farming, prioritizing relationships and engaging in holistic, systems thinking. They integrate a broad range of relevant factors into their farming practices, such as the environment; food safety, nutrition, and public health; and home, farm, and community socioeconomic improvement. This is a much broader scale of “relevance” than would be considered in conventional agriculture, cultivating not only the social and economic sustainability of the farmer and her family but also of her network and local community. It also protects biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, and environmental sustainability and preserves the cultural sustainability of historical production methods and heritage seed varieties critical to food security.

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