Food For Empowerment: Powerful Beginnings to a Sustainable Future Through Empowering Women in Agriculture

Madelyn Radel

The research I did was inspired by a summer I spent working on an organic farm with mostly women. This picture is from that farm.

Seedlings growing in a greenhouse on the farm I spent a summer working at with mostly women, which inspired this research.

Undergraduate Student Project

Introduction

More than 37 million people in America are victims of hunger, including 11 million children, while the United States is the biggest exporter of food in the world (feedingamerica.org; USDA, 2019). This is because we have an unsustainable agriculture system. For years, researchers have been exploring how we can make this system more sustainable and these solutions often take into account economics and the environment. And yet, they have failed to catalyze a large-scale, sustainable agriculture revolution in the United States. I believe this is because we have largely left out the social pillar of sustainability-the three pillars being environment, economics, and social-and in doing so, have overlooked what potential solutions to this problem require. By this, I mean women. Women farmers are key players in the realm of sustainable agriculture as they re-emphasize individual knowledge, practice social organization and community-involvement, and are more willing to adopt sustainable practices. By acknowledging the adaptability of women, something crucial in this ever-changing world, and their propensity to network with one another, it can be concluded that women in America are already suited to empower and be empowered through agriculture. My paper dives deep into the role of women in sustainable agriculture and the powerful model they provide for a sustainable agriculture system.

Abstract

Despite recent efforts towards achieving environmental and economic sustainability, the American agricultural system fails to deliver a sustainable system in each of these regards, in addition to failing to feed its people. It is the emphasis on just the economic and environmental pillars of sustainability, while ignoring the social aspects of the field, that has hindered a large-scale, sustainable agriculture revolution from emerging. Therefore, a solution that begins with social collaboration and the spread of information-both of which are currently lacking in American agriculture-could potentially produce the change that is needed.

Women farmers are key players in the realm of sustainable agriculture as they re-emphasize individual knowledge, practice social organization and community-involvement, and are more willing to adopt sustainable practices. By acknowledging the adaptability of women, something crucial in this ever-changing world, and their propensity to network with one another, it can be concluded that women in America are already suited to be empowered and empower through agriculture. By examining female community networks through the lens of the social pillar of sustainability, we can begin to envision a model for a nationwide, sustainable agriculture revolution that works to dismantle existing gender relations and empower women in the field. 

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