Women, the proverbial gatherers, are operating more farms than ever.
Image via Female Farmer Project
Women working in agriculture is nothing new. In fact, the gender is widely credited as mankind’s original gatherers. In ancient Mesapotamia, a matriarchy, women were in charge of the fields and gardens where cereal was grown. During WWI, a group of women called The Farmerettes mobilized to take over U.S. farms while men fought overseas. In developing countries around the world today, food is largely the product of hard, painstaking work put in daily in fields and patches by local women. A female-driven tractor is certainly not a novelty in the United States. What is new, and at the center of Audra Mulkern’s Female Farmer Project, is the recent surge in female-owned and -operated farms. The unique portrait and blogging series shows the faces and tells the stories of the modern women slowly but surely taking ownership of an industry they’ve long been silent partners in.
According to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, the amount of female owned farms grew from 121,600 in 1978 to 288,264, signaling a significant change in the role of women in farming. There were nearly one million women in the United States who identified their job as farmer at the time. Additionally, minority women-owned farms have been exploding in number, with Hispanic women leading the way (21 percent growth between 2007 and 2012). While this is all promising, the average age of a female farmer in the US is 58. Inspiring girls and women to step into farming in a leadership role is crucial to keep the momentum, and Mulkern hopes her project can be of aid.
“What I see is bigger than what the numbers show,” Mulken told BUST. “I’ve been on farms in a lot of different areas, and different kinds of farms, and what I’m seeing is that women are rising and so to be a small part in documenting that is such an honor.”
Check out the project here.