Call it a chick thing. Call it too many episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” growing up. Call it a quest for crafting a livelihood around our inner female pioneer, wanting to create businesses around our passions for food, the land and leaving this world a better place. While the number of farms in the U.S. continues to decline overall, the number of farms purchased and run by women under 55 is on an upswing. With most of these new female farm ventures embracing sustainable agriculture principles — and many moving into farming after careers in other industries entirely — these chicks add a significant positive ripple into our food system, one organic, heirloom tomato at a time.
“Women farmers today are reinventing the face of organic agriculture,” explains Denise O’Brien, executive director of the Women in Food and Agriculture Network. “They’re focused on raising healthy food for their community and often sell their products through farmers’ markets or community supported agriculture initiatives.” Young women, such as Zoë Bradbury in Oregon, are ditching traditional career paths early on to go for their dreams of being a farmer and contributing to creating a local, healthy food system. Or these women may run diversified farm-based businesses, such as Marguerite Ramlow who runs Artha Sustainable Living Center from her farm in Wisconsin, conducting organic gardening, yoga, renewable energy and sustainable living workshops on-site.
Why this trend of women launching farm and food based businesses? A couple perspectives to chew on:
• No Glass Ceiling — Just Open Fields of Possibility
No matter how you slice it, various barriers and glass ceilings still exist for women in today’s traditional, corporate structure. That explains why women have been starting businesses at twice the national average rate for years. The growth of farming and farm-based businesses takes this independent, entrepreneurial idea to an even larger playing field as one can control even more of the business inputs and outputs by being in a rural setting. Don’t like being dependent on foreign oil? Put up a wind turbine and other renewable energy systems, like we did on our Wisconsin farm and B&B, Inn Serendipity.
• Bring the Kids Along
Farm businesses blend opportunity to involve kids in daily activities and responsibilities. From helping with animal and barn chores to getting ready for the farmers’ market, farms provides various ways to integrate and spend time with one’s children in an engaging, educational setting. Making change for customers at your market stand blows away any math text book when it comes to real-life experience. Our six-year old son, Liam, is in charge of gathering wood and prepping the evening campfire site we share with our B&B guests.
• Soul-Satisfying Work
Contributing to a healthier food system, fostering a healthier planet, leaving a better world for our children. Farms offers women a creative palette to bring one’s values to life on a daily basis, harvesting a satisfaction I know my former career life stranded in a cubicle working for someone else would never bring.