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Women in the Fields by Suzanne Barish

The ancient bond between femininity, fertility and healthy growth is being rekindled at Cropsey Community Farm as farm manager Pearl Wetherall takes charge of Rockland County’s first organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a project of Rockland Farm Alliance.

In the last decade, women in the field have brought fresh ideas, innovative techniques and passionate commitment to reshaping sustainable agriculture. They have created a new brand of female-led farming, celebrated by sustainability advocates such as Civil Eats and Food Tank, whichwill benefit locavores and CSA members. Being a CSA member isn’t just about one’s identity as a smart consumer who makes better choices, it’s about being part of a community and deepening a local connection to sustainable farming endeavors.

The increased presence of women in sustainable agriculture has corresponded with a rise in conscientious consumption of local food around the nation, in part because women like Wetherall weave healthy food growth into an enduring culture of holistic living, environmental protection and social justice. The business of commercial farming still is male-dominated with women making up only about 30% of the workforce on American farms. Fortunately, their numbers are starting to increase as they are becoming workers and proprietors of organic farms and CSA farms. Soil Born Farms Urban Education and Agriculture Project reported that their 2016 apprenticeships for sustainable farming were female, which marked a historic record in the industry. This emergence of women in smaller organic farming enterprises is not a new trend; it’s simply a return to the timeless natural cycle that begins and ends with the soil as a giver of life. Women often have an intuitive sense of how to work with nature without claiming dominance over the myriad harmonious parts of the natural cycle.

Educating the Next Generation

Part of the new feminine approach to farming includes a stronger element of education that exposes children to their foods journey from soil to table. Sarah Bartges, a farm educator for Rockland Farm Alliance and former biology teacher, explains, “Bringing children onto farms is integral to their development and will have lasting impact on their future choices. It is important to introduce students to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, especially female students, who have been historically underrepresented in these fields.” Bringing children to farms engages their imagination and curiosity by allowing them to participate in these STEM disciplines through inquiry based, hands-on work.

Farms such as Cropsey hope to provide the next generation of boys and girls with a re-imagined view of female work – a different image of who drives tractors, works with worms and gets her hands dirty every single day. So here’s to the next generation of women, and men, who will work collaboratively to build a healthier tomorrow.

Suzanne Barish is a writer and founder of Please Pick Project in Rockland County. For more information about the Rockland Farm Alliance, visit RocklandFarm.org.

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