Trailblazers of Sustainability: Women Farmers of the Southeast

Growing up a woman in America affords you many benefits not found in other countries. Opportunities abound and the likelihood of success is tightly linked to ambition and courage. If you do well enough in school, head off to college or an apprenticeship, and take achievements seriously enough, you can often get a well paid job that will provide for you and potentially a family. These days a woman can be a Doctor, Professor, Actor, Philosopher, Scientist, Astronaut, and many other jobs that were until somewhat recently reserved for men. This is not to say that the gender barrier has been broken and that there is no room for further improvement, but great strides have been made by brave women and men alike who have defended the feminine spirit for its beauty, power, and importance on this planet at the risk of endangering themselves, their reputations, and what History would one day have to say about them. Even so, History (His-Story) has often been fuddled and repeated and generation after generation is asked to revisit issues when mass stereotypes prevail in the face of social progress. These reoccurring issues and stalemates, sexual abuse in the workplace, inequality in pay, complaints about public breastfeeding and other maternal misunderstandings, the religious subversion of women's rights, and a long list of other seemingly ridiculous trends are enough to get any tough girl down. In a world built by the words and promises of good and bad men, divided and dominated by their whims and understandings, where a woman's only hope of achieving power is to emulate masculinity, what is a good girl to do? Well, I think the answer is farm.


While a Farmer may not be what every little girl in America pines to be when they grow up, a study done by the Organic Farming Research Foundation in 2005 found that 22% of all Organic Farms in the United States were operated by women. A similar study conducted by the Women on U.S. Farms Research Initiative at Pennsylvania State University found that women were generally less likely to employ chemical intense practices. Women were found to be more likely to utilize organic and sustainable methods for producing their crops. And where does this tendency towards more open-minded, nurturing and holistic practices come from, you ask? I'm afraid to say it comes, straight up, from being a woman.


The Southeastern United States and the great State of Georgia in particular houses some of the most innovative and important women Farmers of our time. These champions of the fields may be as pretty as their flowers, but there is nothing frail or fragile about them. Pioneers in an industry that is just barely being recognized by our mainstream society, these women have come to do the dirty work just as well as their male counterparts and in many cases their products and professionalism serve as guiding lights for young women and men alike interested in a different, more holistic path towards success. They have come to face the adversity generated by our bent industrial food system and they've come to do it in what has for centuries in America been considered a man's line of work.


This is certainly not an attempt to downplay the importance of the strong men in our community out every week at the farmers market dishing out the best of their harvests. You go on, be the studs that you are and keep on giving our young men an example of how hard work is still alive and thriving, shaping and guiding us towards healthier bodies and a healthier planet. Many of the great farmer women of our time share their workload with an equally bad ass male partner, but no longer due to some legal or social requirement.


The Women Farmers of the Southeast are trailblazers for a new and enlightened view of what is important in life. Born nurturers, these women are mothers and daughters, their spirits are naturally entangled in the affairs of the wild and they are here to show us not only what it means to be an empowered female, they are here to show us a different system of values. There is no time for a woman farmer to try and be like any man or fit any standard. They openly pour their love where they lay their seeds and the fruits that grow from that effort are the sweet tastes of social change in a world in need of more lovers, dreamers, and healers.


The most important thing a man or woman in Georgia can do today is to support these incredible figures of strength and ingenuity. To go and purchase their food and show their children that being a woman is a gift, not a sentence. By going to the farmers market or joining their CSA programs, you are playing an important role in acknowledging that women can be leaders, that their strength and courage can manifest beautiful, healthful change on this planet in a time of utmost need.


When I see the incredible achievements of these talented women I am left inspired and encouraged. The world we live in today is wrought with challenges, but I see before me all the strength and ferocity necessary to tackle them. We are living in exciting times and it is time to acknowledge and appreciate what each of us can bring to the table. Whether your daughter wants to be a Congresswoman, a Princess, or a Farmer, she needs to know that she is an entity of great importance and value and she is supported in her pursuits. The more positive examples of woman leaders we cultivate in our communities, the better.

(For more information about any of the farmers featured, click on their images.)