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Agriculture as Carework: The Contradictions of Performing Femininity in a Male-Dominated Occupation



Women in the US have farmed for centuries, but have infrequently had the farmer title. Rural sociologists have explored women’s on-farm roles, as well as rural conceptualizations of gender that influence who can be a farmer. As the proportion of women claiming the farmer title increases, it is important to explore women farmers’ experiences. This article focuses on sixteen farmers in Colorado across the conventional-alternative spectrum. Through engagement with feminist and rural sociological theory, and based on analysis of semi-structured interviews, we contend that women in this study expand what it means to be a farmer by performing femininity through carework within their farming practice. This study demonstrates how some women farmers adapt a variety of predominantly feminine-coded work—such as education, customer support, and feeding work—to make agriculture a space of carework, and farming a role expanded beyond a masculine ideal.
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Society & Natural Resources
An International Journal
ISSN: 0894-1920 (Print) 1521-0723 (Online) Journal homepage:
Agriculture as Carework: The Contradictions
of Performing Femininity in a Male-Dominated
Rebecca C. Shisler & Joshua Sbicca
To cite this article: Rebecca C. Shisler & Joshua Sbicca (2019): Agriculture as Carework: The
Contradictions of Performing Femininity in a Male-Dominated Occupation, Society & Natural
Resources, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2019.1597234
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Published online: 23 Apr 2019.
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Agriculture as Carework: The Contradictions of Performing
Femininity in a Male-Dominated Occupation
Rebecca C. Shisler
and Joshua Sbicca
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA;
Department of Sociology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Women in the US have farmed for centuries, but have infrequently
had the farmer title. Rural sociologists have explored womens on-
farm roles, as well as rural conceptualizations of gender that influ-
ence who can be a farmer. As the proportion of women claiming
the farmer title increases, it is important to explore women farmers
experiences. This article focuses on sixteen farmers in Colorado
across the conventional-alternative spectrum. Through engagement
with feminist and rural sociological theory, and based on analysis of
semi-structured interviews, we contend that women in this study
expand what it means to be a farmer by performing femininity
through carework within their farming practice. This study demon-
strates how some women farmers adapt a variety of predominantly
feminine-coded worksuch as education, customer support, and
feeding workto make agriculture a space of carework, and farming
a role expanded beyond a masculine ideal.
Received 31 May 2018
Accepted 6 February 2019
Carework; gender;
performativity; rural
sociology; sociology of
food; women farmers
Although women in the United States (US) have farmed for centuries, they have infre-
quently been ascribed the farmer title (Sachs 1983). Due to mens economic domination
of agriculture and rural constructions of Western agriculture as masculine, the common
perception of and discourse surrounding farming remains centered on the rugged,
nature-taming male. Additionally, womens access to farmland is historically limited
and when they do have access, their control over that farmland is often influenced by
other men (Alsgaard 2012; Carter 2017). This overdetermined view, however, masks the
prevalence of women farmers and farming approaches informed by feminine gendered
experiencesapproaches rendered invisible by idealized notions of masculine agriculture
(Sachs 1983). We examine some of these feminine-coded approaches in this research,
finding that the women farmers in our study imbue carework into their farmer role,
therefore disrupting its masculine roots.
The United States Department of Agricultures (2012) (USDA) census reports that
30% of all farm operators are female; this includes joint and non-primary operators.
Despite their historically marginalized position in agriculture, between 1982 and 2007,
CONTACT Rebecca C. Shisler Department of Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina
State University, Campus Box 8107, Raleigh, NC 27695-8107, USA.
ß2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
farms with a female principal operator more than doubled, and between 1978 and 2007,
the percentage of farms and ranches with a female principal operator grew from 5.2%
to 13.9% (United States Department of Agriculture 2012). Like many representations of
women in agriculture, these statistics should be interpreted with caution, as only one
farm operator was counted per farm until 2002, when up to three operators could be
counted. Many of these second or third operators are women (Korb 2005). Moreover,
these statistics may have changed due to women embracing the farmer title, when his-
torically they may not have claimed it (Sachs et al. 2016).
Our article focuses on women farmers in three Colorado counties. The state is among
the top 50% of agricultural-producing states in the US and has more women primary
farm operators than the national average. According to state-level data, 19% of
Colorado farms have a female principal operator (United States Department of
Agriculture 2012). We investigate the perspectives and gendered performances of
women in three counties: Larimer, Boulder, and Weld. In each county, women farmers
make up 23%, 28%, and 18% of all operators respectively and reflect national differences
with men in the types of farms they run (United States Department of Agriculture
2012). Women-run farms tend to be smaller, more diversified, and disproportionately
use sustainable and organic farming practices (United States Department of Agriculture
2012). Eighty-two percent of women-run farms are fewer than 180 acres as compared
to 69% of farms overall. Additionally, 76% of women-operated farms have sales of less
than $10,000 as compared to 56% of farms overall (United States Department of
Agriculture 2012).
We argue that as a minority within agriculture in terms of both demographics and
farming approach, the women in our study manage limitations by performing feminin-
ity through carework. Carework has the potential to expand agricultural space for
women, but also risks reproducing traditional gender ideas, which can subjugate women
into subservient roles. We explore this tension by interrogating the challenges women
farmers confront and the roles they play in the socially constructed masculine world of
agriculture. The women farmers in our study adapt and embrace methods of farming
that align with their goals, which often intersect with caring for other women, men,
children, eaters, land, plants, and animals. We contend that while they experience com-
mon barriers like tokenism and intensive motherhood, that they demonstrate a hetero-
geneity of feminine gender performances, which suggests the need to not only
understand gendered differences in agriculture vis
a vis men, but also diversity among
women farmers.
Women in Agriculture: The Marginalization of Femininity
Following the work of scholars that focus on how gender is produced and reproduced
through repeated social action, we interpret the experience of women farmers in our
study as the contested and contradictory process of navigating rigid gender expectations.
Put differently, gender is the product of social doings produced as a socially
organized achievement(West and Zimmerman 1987: 129), with gender performance
constituting not a singular act, but a repetition and ritual that we anticipate and
produce(Butler 1990:xvxvi). Much of US agriculture is male-dominated in highly
industrialized and commodity-focused production systems, supported through repro-
duction of patriarchal gender relations that limit womens ability to enter agriculture
(Allen and Sachs 2007; Saugeres 2002; Trauger 2004; Trauger et al. 2008). Women are
often discouraged from farming due to capital-intensive barriers to entry, including
land cost, equipment, buildings, seeds, and chemicals (Sachs et al. 2016). Traditionally,
farmland passes down from father to son; when women inherit land, they often feel
pressure to adhere to wishes of male family members or act as placeholders for others
goals, and therefore exercise less agency over their property (Brandth 2002; Carter 2017;
Pilgeram and Amos 2015).
Traditional gender ideas further reproduce patriarchal ideologies, including that men
are naturally inclined to work the land and that agrarian life is masculine (Allen and
Sachs 2007; Brandth 2002,2006; Campbell and Bell 2009; Saugeres 2002). This mascu-
line coding of farming frustrates some women when their farmer identities need to be
reinforced in the face of occupational gender stereotypes; women often need to remind
people that they are farmers, not gardeners (Keller 2014; Sachs et al. 2016). Similarly,
women farmers who work in partnerships often feel that their contributions go unrec-
ognized; they are perceived as farmwives instead of their self-ascribed farmer identity
(Trauger 2004). Other women may engage in masculine gender performativity to gain
respect from male peers, although women perform gender for a variety of reasons
(Leslie 2017; Pilgeram 2007).
When women enter agriculture as farmers, they defy traditional gender roles, which
complicates taking on tasks often reserved for men. Women face marginalization due to
norms that assume a gendered division of labor, traditional physical techniques focused
on mens bodies, and the good old boy network(Trauger et al. 2008: 437). This mar-
ginalization compounds with a common experience of motherhood, which for many
women farmers in our study is a major competing role. After all, one of the current
dominant motherhood paradigms is intensive motherhood, the idea and expectation of
women spending a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money in raising their
children (Hays 1996). Intensive mothering requires women to elevate their children
above all else.
Even when womens work is comparable to mens in agriculture, they retain trad-
itional household responsibilities (Allen and Sachs 2007; Haugen and Brandth 1994;
Sachs et al. 2016). Moreover, due to the overburdening of domestic responsibilities,
women entrepreneurs face role conflict when trying to balance their conflicting identi-
ties of entrepreneur, spouse, and mother (Haugen and Brandth 1994; Shelton 2006).
The role conflicts women farmers experience are intimately tied to the construction
of rural masculinity and femininity. Rural masculinity entwines with hegemonic notions
that farmers are assumed male, good farmers should be toughand strong,and that
farming (industrially) dominates nature (Brandth 2002; Chiappe and Flora 1998; Little
2002). While rural femininity has shifted over time to include expanded farm roles, it
still tends to subordinate women under masculine expectations of traditional gender
roles (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005; Morris and Evans 2001). Women who wish to
embrace the farmer identity do so in the context of rural femininity, which is nested
within a nurturing discourse (Keller 2014; Little 2002). This navigation can be difficult,
since masculinities are defined through opposition to femininity, and women who
perform masculinity contradict societys expected gender performance (Connell and
Messerschmidt 2005; Pilgeram 2007).
Rural femininities also intersect with the family farm discourse, positioning women
within the role of farmwife rather than as farmer (Brandth 2002). This comes with an
expectation to focus on domestic tasks associated with traditional heterosexual partner-
ship. When the women in this study adopt the farmer role, they are subverting trad-
itional femininity, especially given farmings time demands that take women away from
home. Therefore, women farmers often contend with a role defined by hegemonic mas-
culinity, transcending idealized roles (Keller 2014). Although their farmer title stems
from a masculine framework, the women under study engaged with a feminine per-
formance of care, thus embodying a tension at the heart of the social construction of
gendered binaries. While carework allows women farmers to embrace their occupation
and subvert masculine assumptions, it exists within a society where femininity is deval-
ued, perhaps reproducing gendered roles simultaneously.
Women and Farm Work: Mitigating Male Domination
The perception of gender-neutral workplaces occurs because men in organizations take
their behavior and perspectives to represent the human(Acker 1990:142). This under-
standing creates structural bias against qualities coded as feminine, including farms and
related occupational spaces. Whether through overt harassment and discrimination, or
questioning womens bodies, emotions, and knowledge, workplaces are often sites where
underlying gender relations, like patriarchy, are reproduced (Acker 1990). Women in
male-dominated occupations experience the additional pressures of tokenism, which rel-
egates a person to a symbolic representative of their group instead of an individual
(Datta and Bhardwaj 2015). For example, women in Australian agricultural organiza-
tions engaged in extensive self-monitoring to balance masculine leadership with norma-
tive femininity (Pini 2005).
Nevertheless, women in agriculture define themselves by a variety of farm roles
including farmer, business partner, or domestic partner (Brasier et al. 2014). This opens
the chance to perform femininity in diverse ways and challenges traditional divisions of
labor that relegate womenin agriculture and otherwiseto domestic responsibilities,
which is unpaid, invisible labor (Allen and Sachs 2007; Brandth 2002; DeVault 1991;
Hochschild and Machung 2012; Saugeres 2002). This is not to say that many women do
not balance these roles simultaneously, but rather that some women connect with some
identities more (Brasier et al. 2014; Keller 2014).
The prevalence of occupational hegemonic masculinity compels women farmers to
strategically navigate demands on their time, including role elimination, reduction, or
sharing (Shelton 2006). For example, if a farmer is also a mother, she may manage
competing roles by eliminating her farmer role, reducing on-farm responsibility, or
managing motherhood by sharing childcare with another person like a nanny if she has
the means to do so (Hochschild and Machung 2012). The idea of work-life balance may
seem thorny to some women farmers, so outsourcing feminine roles or decreasing agri-
cultural responsibilities in order to achieve role harmony may seem necessary.
These role conflicts also intersect with how adherence to motherhood expectations
through caretaking can be one way women perform femininity. The ethic of care and
carework refers to humansrelational abilities, especially to other humans, and is based
in the idea that through extensive and historical socialization, women disproportionately
perform a care role in their relationships (Gilligan 1995). Moreover, as it relates to the
experience of many of the farmers in our study, there is a common performance of
femininity through foodwork, especially for mothers that take on the care responsibil-
ities of feeding and managing the health and well-being of their families
(DeVault 1991).
The Contradictions of Doing Femininity through Carework
The domestic carework provided disproportionately by women helps contextualize some
farmersapproach to agriculture. Indeed, despite its historic devaluation, carework is
central to many womens experiences in agriculture and performance of gender (Sachs
et al. 2016). By extending the nurturing role outside of ones family and to the earth,
community, and customer-base, women farmers can perform a feminine alternative in
contradistinction to overdetermined masculine agriculture. But carework is entangled in
subservient feminine-coded roles and can reproduce the inequalities that many women
in the study seek to subvert. Embracing a feminine performance of carework risks
maintaining a subjugated femininity within a heteropatriarchal context. Our research,
then, reveals this tension between tactically adopting caring roles in response to a mas-
culine-centric agriculture and the narrow and contested space for what is an acceptable
gender performance for women farmers.
When we discuss carework, we follow Carol Gilligan (1995), who contends, A fem-
inine ethic of care is an ethic of the relational world as that world appears within a
patriarchal social order [while] a feminist ethic of care begins with connection theor-
ized as primary people live in connection of one another(122). This feminine ethic
is not just about a willingness to empathetically enter into the world of others and care
for them, [but] can be expanded and developed as part of a political agenda(Curtin
1991:66). This ethic includes nonhuman entities, such as the environment, animals, and
agricultural land; reflecting an ethic of care, many women farmers understand these
interdependences. Again, we propose that this is a relation and not an essential feature
of women farmers experiences, which builds on nuanced forms of ecofeminism that
argue gender is itself a relational construction, and that therefore womens and mens
embodied environmental experience cannot be understood in isolation(Banerjee and
Bell 2007: 14).
We posit that farming as a caring act is one part of some womens feminine gender
performance, which can often include care and feeding work. As others have found,
carework responsibilities associated with motherhood tend to make women more
attuned to issues such as food and health, which influences a greater concern for the
environment (Cairns and Johnston 2015; Xiao and McCright 2012). While not inherent
to ones gender, this kind of ecofeminist ethic dovetails with the fact that it is not just
that women do more of the work of feeding, but also that feeding work has become
one of the primary ways that women ‘‘dogenderand assert womanliness(DeVault
1991:118). We argue that these family-focused acts can also extend more broadly to
encompass the community and consumers.
The women in this study perform femininity and create a niche for themselves reified
through the agricultural roles they take on. By adapting variations of predominantly
feminine-coded work, such as education, customer-support, and feeding people, these
farmers succeed by doing gender within the context of a masculine-coded occupation.
For example, women commonly practice care through youth development and educa-
tion programing. Historically, and up to the present, women make up most volunteers
in 4-H clubs (Culp, McKee, and Nestor 2005; Lobley 2008). Additionally, women farm-
ers perform femininity through agritourism including on-farm camps, and other educa-
tion- and community-based activities that produce diversified farm income (Barbieri,
Mahoney, and Butler 2008). Indeed, women disproportionately run farms with diversi-
fied income streams compared to men. Although some may dismiss these data as sim-
ply emblematic of good business sense, the skills needed to succeed in agritourism map
onto traditionally feminine work bolstered by emotional labor; education and customer-
centric work is frequently done by women (Hochschild 2012). Yet, as we illustrate
below, the experiences that our interviewees have navigating male-dominated agriculture
lead to often contradictory assertions of their farmer role, especially as it relates to per-
forming femininity through care.
This article relies primarily on semi-structured in-depth interviews. In 2016, the first
author interviewed sixteen farmers in the Colorado counties of Larimer, Weld, and
Boulder. The author used chain-referral sampling with key stakeholders at Colorado
State University, both professors and extension agents, to access a network of women
farmers. To participate, a person needed to identify as a woman and primary farm
operator. A quarter of the sample were from Larimer County, and the remaining three-
quarters were split evenly between Weld and Boulder counties.
Although all farmers in the study identified as primary farm operators, half of the
interviewees were also partners (in all cases, a male partner) and the other half were
sole primary operators. Most women engaged in sustainable or organic agricultural
practices (69%). All farmers in this study were white, almost matching the trend that
Colorado farm operators are over 98% white (United States Department of Agriculture
2012). The farmers worked in a range of operations spanning from small-scale direct-
market operations to large-scale animal feed farms. The ages of the participants ranged
from 2686 years old, and the median age of interviewees was 44 years old, younger
than the national average, which is just over 56 years old for all farmers (United States
Department of Agriculture 2012). The women were highly educated, with 81% holding
at least a bachelors degree, and 31% of those women with education beyond a bache-
lors degree. Due to these demographics, which skew toward white, college-educated
women who engage in alternative or sustainable practices, we also note that our inter-
viewees were likely responding from a racial and class privileged standpoint during
research; farmers of color face multiple historic and systemic barriers to farming,
including discriminatory treatment from the USDA (Alkon 2007). We did not ask about
sexuality, but many of the women in the study mentioned a male partner; it is likely
that many of the farmers were heterosexual. Scholars have explored the heteronormativ-
ity of the agricultural world, finding queer farmers frequently feel othered when in agri-
cultural spaces (Leslie 2017). Heterosexual women benefit from being a majority, but
also need to fight against the patriarchal undercurrents inherent to heteronormativity.
In this study, the women interviewed did not mention barriers related to race, class, or
sexuality, which would no doubt make asserting the farmer title an even more difficult
task. We stress that this study is not meant to be representative of women farmers
across the country, or even Colorado. Our intent is to unpack social realities and gen-
dered performances.
The interviews ranged from approximately 40 to 150 minutes. The first author con-
ducted, recorded, and transcribed all interviews. The names of farmers and farms were
changed for confidentiality. Guided by Salda~
nas (2013) coding manual, the first author
conducted two rounds of coding. In the first round, the author engaged with simultan-
eous, structural, and descriptive coding. Using simultaneous coding to understand how
different codes overlapped enriched the second round. Throughout data collection and
interview transcription, the author modified codes as common themes arose. The first
cycle yielded approximately 40 descriptive and abstract codes. In the second round, the
author focused codes through memoing and decided which to keep, combine, and
remove. Theoretical coding and continued memoing led to the organization and coding
of ideas, conceptualized under themes like work,patriarchy, and care ethics. Emergent
themes relevant to this article were women farmersexperiences navigating a male-
dominated occupation and care ethics. This included labor at home and on the farm,
sustainability, and performing care and femininity as it related to the community, fam-
ily, and education.
Navigating Masculine Farming: All Men. All the Time. All Men.
The farmers in our study described the challenges of tokenism, harassment, and the
additional stress of domestic labor. Overarching these issues was the experience navigat-
ing an exclusionary agricultural space. As Joanne, an assertive wholesale organic wheat
farmer expressed, A lot of women dont wanna be in ag because its all men All
men. All the time. All men.
Since men are considered the default farmer, womens mere existence as farmers can
challenge and subvert masculine power, especially when performing traditionally mascu-
line positions. This runs up against the literal structuring of space to serve typical male
physical traits. Speaking to the conflict between gendered performances and the
embodiment of these organizationally coded experiences, Gina expressed that many
agricultural tools are not created for the average woman: Everything we buy is like,
giant Im amazed at how many tools I have to retrofit for myself.Gina runs a com-
munity-supported agriculture (CSA) farm with her husband; she also expressed that her
tractor cannot be adjusted to her average female height. The necessity of modifying
essential equipment illustrates the masculine-coded nature of agriculture and the
ingenuity required to assert a farming identity.
Women farmersidentities are rarely accepted unquestionably. Several women
expressed needing to prove themselves as farmers, or correcting people who viewed
them as a farmwife. Aubrey, a partnered wholesale alfalfa farmer expressed, [W]e have
to open our own doors; we have to blaze our own trail. Its not given to us They just
fully accept you [if youre a man].For example, Shannon, a conventional dairy farmer,
spoke to her experiences joining an agricultural board: I think I get tossed aside a little
bit and Im the first woman to be on the board I mean, thats gonna take a while
[for them to adjust].Shannon recognized that change is often incremental, but this
does not mean sitting back to wait for a cultural shift.
As we noted with Ginas experience with equipment, women farmers carried the
weight of pushing back against male organizational norms. Shannon, for instance, began
shifting the agricultural boards culture regarding sexual harassment. In traditionally
male-dominated workplaces, women experience sexual harassment more often than
women in other workplaces; a 2017 Pew Research survey study found that approxi-
mately 49% of women in mostly-male workplaces say sexual harassment is a problem
where they work, compared to 32% of women working in mostly-female workplaces
(Parker 2018). Shannon recounted how she opened space for women in agriculture:
I had one problem with a gentleman [on the board] but more because he couldnt keep his
hands to himself .Its funny how your brain plays because you dont wanna be that
womanwhere its like, Oh she gets on here and gets so-and-so kicked out.And so I
talked to some females that worked at the office and they had some issues, and there was a
young girl where I could see her come in and look for where he was, because she wanted
to make sure she could sit where he was gonna leave her alone . So I went to them and
said, This has to stop! And if you dont get rid of him, Im gonna step down and I wont
be quiet!
As a result, the perpetrator of the harassment was removed from the board. Shannon
leveraged her influence to create a more hospitable environment for women. Shannon
did not experience negative consequences from this assertive action; unfortunately, this
is not usually the case for women who come forward with harassment allegations. This
case spoke to Shannons privilege as a white woman whose father was a respected
farmer in the community. She noted her relative privilege when she considered the
experience of the young girlat the office, and spoke out in part on her behalf.
Shannons presence on the board subverted a male power dynamic by resisting the
reproduction of stereotypical expectations to remain submissive or silent, a performance
that if repeated could contribute to advancing gender parity in agriculture.
We further this analysis below with attention to the experiences of tokenism and
motherhood. Not only does this contextualize how the women in our study asserted
farmer identities and shaped new practices with heightened environmental and social
concerns, but also details how they embrace and perform femininity in unique ways.
Taken together, we reason that the carework they engaged in is a contradictory form of
claiming a farmer identity in ways that challenge a masculine paradigm.
Tokenism: I Feel a Responsibility to Represent Women
Although on its face it may appear that the representation of women in agriculture bene-
fits all women farmers, this can remain at a token level that adds stress. Tokenism created
an environment in which women felt they were representing women as a whole. Shannon
expressed, I think being a woman gives those critics a reason to say, Well, yeah, shesa
woman, of course shes not gonna [succeed]’…. I think I have to go so much higher and
harder than most men.Despite tokenism, the farmer recognized the potential for her
work to influence perceptions of women, and paved the way for future farmers:
I want to be a success because there arent very many women that are running [farms] by
themselves . I hear that a lot with my dads friends that have young girls in high-school
or maybe in college, and theyre telling their dads, I wanna [farm]! I wanna come back
and do this.And [the fathers] are kinda like, Oh no!
Other women in the study took pride in their representative role. They believed their
confidence and expertise allowed them to promote other women in agriculture. For
example, Joanne viewed her farming through an advocacy lens:
I represent women, and I want that to be positive. I want it to be a really good thing.
When I leave a room, I want the men to look at each other and go, God it was great
working with that woman. I look forward to working with women more in the future”….
I feel a responsibility to represent women in a really positive way.
By embracing the representative role, Joanne asserted her farmer identity and those
of other women who farm. However, tokenism was also an ambivalent experience for
women farmers. For example, Shannon felt singled out, but also believed her success
helped bring younger generations, such as farm daughters, into agriculture.
Tokenism pressured women to go higher and harder,but also provided an oppor-
tunity to promote themselves and fellow women by offering a strong example of what
women are capable of. This performance became more difficult to manage when a
woman farmer also held a motherhood role. In these cases, success was measured not
only by professional endeavors, but also by childrens success. One was not only a
women farmer, but a farmer-mother. Shannon expressed this struggle:
Youre trying to prove yourself in your business and show that you can do itso you
work really hard at that. Then, you also have kids that are depending on you that you
wanna give a good full life to, and a home to keep, and husband to take care of it
probably puts more stress on me because the kids are first, but the business needs to
succeed . And if either fails, then I fail, you know?
Motherhood requires women to exert immense energy to domestic and agricultural
tasks. Additionally, Shannon also mentions a husband to take care of,which indicates
that carework, while sometimes subversive, also reproduces patriarchal expectations.
Therefore, some women perform traditional femininity in order to balance multiple
roles and bring their domestic carework into the agricultural sphere.
Intensive Motherhood: Any Moment That Im not Farming, I Have to be a Mom.
Several women articulated the challenge of balancing the demanding roles of farmer
and mother. Theyre both full-time jobs,noted Dana, an organic direct-market farmer.
Any moment that Im not farming, I have to be a mom and I feel like people dont
talk a lot about that, and I think thats a big issue with women in agriculture.Dana
shared childcare roles with her husband, and she lauded him for being a great partner
and father, but also stressed that her husband cannot take on a maternal rolehe can
only be a father. Jessica, another farmer who runs a CSA with her husband agreed with
this sentiment: [N]o matter what, its sort of up to mom to take more care of the
child.These ideas supported the traditional paradigm of intensive motherhood. By insist-
ing that motherhood, and parenthood overall, is a uniquely feminine endeavor, the moth-
ers in the study performed femininity through prioritizing parenting over farming while
still embracing the farmer label, demonstrating that the roles are not mutually exclusive.
However, insisting parenthood is a feminine domain reproduces heteropatriarchal domes-
tic roles. Given the intensity of idealized motherhood (and the ideal farmer), it was sens-
ible that farmer-mothers insisted on embracing both farming and parenting in their lives.
Intensive motherhood, which requires women to position their children as their high-
est priority (Hays 1996), created conflict for farmer-mothers since their farmer role
required a great deal of time, energy, and money. The women farmers who described
motherhood as a salient identity had to balance idealized mothering (like many working
mothers) through embracing the primary parenting role, role sharing, or the outsourc-
ing of domestic work (Hochschild and Machung 2012).
The farmer-mothers endured great pressure to be an ideal mother and a successful
farmer, and caretaking roles were rarely equal. Jessica described the division of labor in
her partnership:
[My husband] and I kind of have to divide roles and when it comes to the kids, I just
thats me 95% of the time even if were in the middle of a project, I gotta go, the kid
still needs picked up . That leaves [my husband] to be able to see through the
project . [T]hats hard because sometimes I wanna be able to see through the project.
This divide was emblematic of intensive motherhoodwhen one parent must take on
a primary childcare role, it is almost always the mother. Jessica identified as a primary
operator and shared that title with her husband, but she was heavily responsible for
domestic labor. Again, embracing carework was essential to her life, but also affected her
ability to see through the projecton the farm; her husband made no such sacrifice.
In the case of some of the interviewed women, to disentangle mothering from farm-
ing required paying someone to free up time for farm work, an act that allowed for
more fully integrating a farmer role into everyday life, but was contingent on the funds
to do so. Gina talked about how once her son was old enough to be away from her, she
and her husband managed childcare by hiring a nanny:
I went from working 60 hours a week to sitting at home staring at this thing I didnt know
anything about. I was like, I dont know if I can do this.It was really a transition .As
[our sons] gotten older its been easier for [my husband] to take care of him hes not as
needy . But we did have to bring a nanny on because otherwise we cant get
anything done.
The reproduction of carework took place not only with respect to parenting, but also
in how women farmers conducted their work. Although embracing carework can repro-
duce heteropatriarchal standards, our findings suggest that domestic work and feminine
performance are also a strategy for women farmers to create a space in agriculture and
define distinct approaches to farming.
The Ethic of Care and Carework
Using carework as a vehicle to perform femininity, we posit that some women farmers
externalized domestic roles from the family sphere to the public and community sphere,
where the health and wellbeing of customers, communities, and the natural world
became central to doing femininity as a farmer. During her interview, after discussing
her community commitment to organic, Joanne expressed how she came to run an
organic farm in the first place:
I think the way women experience things are different than the way men experience
things. This is a bit of a stereotype but Im going to say this: I often see things from a
perspective—‘motherlyviewpoint. We became organic farmers because when [our son]
was a baby, I didnt want chemicals on the farm.
Lane, a small-scale tree farmer, further expressed these carework links. She asserted
that a feminine ethic of care incorporated overall human sustainability:
I think making a farm sustainable has not just to do with not using pesticides or
herbicides or doing more perennials and fewer annuals. Not just to do with not tilling as
much and using as many fossil fuels or not shipping far away and instead working with
your local communityit also has to do with the well-being of the people . And thatsa
very female thing I think. I think women are more likely to think about the whole system
and about the overall well-being of the family, and thats a big generalization, but thatsmy
observation of myself and my community.
As we discuss more below, this human-to-human care and human-to-nonhuman care
encompassed an array of practices.
Human-to-Human Care: I Joke That I Have a Feeding Disorder
Several farmers in this study expressed the importance of human-to-human care
through feeding others nutrient-dense food. As DeVault (1991) has shown, it is import-
ant to account for the factors that can play into why feeding is performed by women,
especially mothers. In our study, we see in the case of Dana and Jessica that women
expanded their motherhood and feeding roles by doing femininity through feeding their
customers and community.
Supporting the finding that direct-market farmers cite feeding othersas a primary
motivation for their work (Jarosz 2011), Jessica linked the farming goal of feeding her
customers to the responsibility of nourishing her family with the best possible food:
Thats really kind of the root of everything that Im doing here. I wanna feed my kids the
best food, so then I just take that to I want to feed everybody.I really love that. I love
that idea of feeding people. I joke that I have a feeding disorder . Something about that
I feel like is kinda based in my yin aspect of being a woman . And thats so much about
what agriculture is. Its not commodity crops, or I dont want it to be that. I want it to be
feeding people and people having that connection to their food.
Taking this on as a feminine imperative in the face of industrialized, masculine-domi-
nated agriculture suggested that women could reinterpret the feminine performance of
feeding as a distinct and innovative agricultural act. This pushes beyond Wendell
Berrys(1990) famous proposition that eating is an agricultural act.By focusing her
farming around feeding, Jessica imbued feminine carework into masculine agriculture.
Several women expressed the importance of growing food rather than commodity
crops, linking a feminine performance to foodwork (Allen and Sachs 2007; Cairns and
Johnston 2015; DeVault 1991). The connection between eating and food production
seemed to be especially important to the women farmers using alternative farming prac-
tices, of which most of the women practiced. For example, Marian, a woman who runs
an organic CSA and agritourism farm with her husband, expressed commitment to the
health of her community:
Its important to me to feed people. I think thats just really, just a very basic thing that we
need to do for people and thats kind of an extension of having a farm and having a
community-based farm . We feed our members, we also contribute every week to the
food pantry in [town] . We try to think about how can we grow food for as many
people as possible, organically.
By viewing feeding as an extension of her community-based farm, especially feeding
food-insecure individuals organic food, Marian affirmed that bringing good food to her
community was an imperative she expanded beyond her paying customer-base. By
asserting their farmer identity in these ways, Jessica and Marian shaped the public
domain of their local food and farming systems with social and environmental values
associated with domestic foodwork. Instead of seeing these two spheres as separate, as a
heteropatriarchal worldview might push, feminine performances blurred boundaries and
opened the space to farm differently. Although the focus on providing food and nour-
ishing community came from alternative farmers, conventional farmers also demon-
strated care toward community and educational endeavors, as well as care for their land
and soil.
Several farmers in this study were involved in formal education and youth develop-
ment initiatives that included programming through the soil conservation office, 4-H,
the Beef Council, and the Farm Bureau. Sharing expertise and expanding knowledge
put women farmers in conversation with the public in ways capable of changing how
people perceive and experience agriculture and eating. A seasoned cattlewoman, Joyce,
shared, I believe education needs to be a part of what we do as farmers.
One of the beliefs that women across the conventional-alternative spectrum shared
was that agricultural education and youth programming strengthened the community
and agriculture as a whole. Like domestic carework, this was also bound up with
contradictory gender expectations. Aubrey shared her perception of womens role in
such activities: It seems like were pigeon-holed, Here, you take care of ag education.
And for some of the men, ag education is beneath them. My view is even with [teach-
ing] a four-year-old, Im still making a difference.Aubrey believed that womens agri-
cultural education work made a valuable impact despite some of her male counterparts
dismissals. By providing education, Aubrey performed work traditionally understood as
feminine but negotiated what it looked like by asserting that it was part of being
a farmer.
Human-to-Nonhuman Care: Id Really Rather Be Interfacing with the Plants
Some carework commitments extended to how many women farmers in our study
engaged with nonhuman entities, namely by adopting sustainable practices vis
a vis
land and animals. This focus on the natural world rejects the historically hegemonic-
masculine approach to nature and science that disconnects humans from their environ-
ments (Goldman and Schurman 2000). Articulating a relational feminine ethic of care,
Joyce expressed, [My womanhood] has to do with my love for people and my love for
animals and my love for the Earth and taking good care of the soil.Joyce believed that
her gender identity shaped her farming, which led her to performing femininity through
her practices and creating spaces where care is the driving motivation. Relatedly, Gina,
who had degrees in microbiology and environmental health, viewed caring for the Earth
as deeply important:
It was amazing to me how much degradation was caused by agriculture and stuff. When I
graduated with my masters degree I thought, I need to do something different. I need to
make real change in my community and this is really the only place I can start [to] feel
like I was really making change and pushing my community towards what I thought it
should be, you know, and rather than trying to go from the top-down, to try and go from
the ground up was just a more tangible approach for me.
For Gina and Joyce, integration of environmental values into their work tied into
their farmer identities. They wanted to be responsible stewards of natural resources,
give to the Earth rather than take from it, engage with community, and meld non-eco-
nomic values into their farming.
Interviewees also frequently discussed care in the form of, as Marian put it, the goal
to preserve agricultural farmland.Farmland is being ceded to development along the
Front Range, and it is increasingly expensive to purchase land in the region.
preservation requires a concerted effort within regional bureaucracies to designate land
as agricultural and therefore ineligible for development. Like many other farmers,
Marian wanted to place land in a trust to ensure that future farmers can use it for pro-
duction: Our plan is to put [the farm] into an agricultural conservancy, a trust actually,
to create a nonprofit trust that would have an overseeing board who would then hire
long-term farmers here.Similarly, Gina had been working in her county to develop
other farmland conservation techniques: [We started] an advisory committee with all
different people from the community that value access to local food and we said
What do you guys think community-owned farmland could look like?”… Weve been
meeting weekly with a working group to create the first land cooperative in the county.
Although many men farmers are also interested in preserving farmland, our findings
are distinct in that the topics came up during interviews where gender was the focus of
conversation and women explicitly talked about the communal benefits of such action.
This care similarly extended to soilthe basis for healthy farmland. Kayla, a conven-
tional barley farmer, worked with her soil conservation office to educate youth, but also
directly maintained her farms soil: [I] make sure our soil health is good, we do a lot
of soil sampling and for nutrients to see what were missing, see what we need to add,
see what will help the next crop.Joanne also expressed the importance of soil health.
[We] make sure that we are keeping our ground sustainable for the future. Thats
important to us that were not just trying to reap crops off of our land without taking
into consideration the soil itself.Kayla and Joanne expressed a care relationship based
on the complementary aims of environmental sustainability and production. It is a
mutually beneficial connectionwithout care for soil, a farm cannot produce its highest
yields, and therefore will fail.
Farm stewardship connects closely with care for the environment overall and links to
an underlying feminine ethic. Angie, a direct-market vegetable farmer, discussed her
connection to nature as something connected to her womanhood: I prefer to be on the
ground. Id really rather be interfacing with the plants and the bugs and everything else.
Id rather be harvesting by hand. Obviously who we are is influenced by gender.
This was not a unique desire and spoke to the different gendered coding of production
practices. Several of the women expressed that when they had a mixed-gender work-
force, they see that the women preferred pulling weeds, preparing products for market,
or using hand tools, whereas male workers wanted to work with machinery. Getting
down in the dirt with biological processes was portrayed as a feminine approach in
interviews, a performance that differentiated women farmers and some of the distinct
approaches they brought to agriculture. Although clearly many farmers engage closely
with plants, what is important is that this gendered division of labor was interpreted
through an empowerment lens when women farmers self-select the work they prefer.
Overall, interviewees performed femininity repeatedly through farming with an ethic
of care. This care was heterogeneous and not without contradiction. Women farmers
across the conventional-alternative spectrum demonstrated a care for community, edu-
cation, environment, and healthy food systems. Women farmers also tied this care for
the natural world to their gender or upbringing. This coupling of a caring identity to
caring values and practices sought to claim that unlike a masculine-coded approach
which dominates nature and divides people by tasks and supposed inherent traits,
women farmers instead embraced the connections between people, the greater commu-
nity, crops, animals, and the environment. Making up for the supposed environmental
deficits of men, many women farmers constructed their farming in ways that set them
apart from an overdetermined masculine domination of nature.
Our study of women farmers in Northern Colorado revealed that some women farmers
experienced marginalization similar to that of women in other male-dominated occupa-
tions, for example, harassment, tokenism, and issues with work-life balance. Agriculture
presented its own set of limitations for women, particularly due to the hegemony of the
idealized masculine farmer. While tokenism and motherhood could sideline women
farmers, they made room for themselves by embracing traditionally feminine values
such as care and cooperation. This expansion of the farmer role could lead to the cre-
ation of feminine and women-centric agricultural niches. Women subverted the mascu-
line world of agriculture by performing femininity through carework. The interviewees
took pride in their ability to feed their customers, educate customers and youth, care
for their farmland and the environment, and preserve their land for future generations.
Many women in the study broke the farmer mold; instead of fitting themselves into the
agriculture world by performing masculinity, they embraced different femininities of
care as a cornerstone of their farmer identities.
We have laid out ways that some women construct this farmer role. Through the per-
formance of feminine carework, the women in the study distinguished themselves
beyond care for their families through care of other women in the field, care for youth,
care for community, and care for the natural word. Through education, promoting
nutritious food, and supporting future agricultural farmland, women had a heteroge-
neous approach to care which could strengthen agriculture and create opportunities for
women farmers outside of a masculine paradigm. This is not, however, without tension.
While performing feminine carework as part of a masculine occupation made space for
women to embrace and expand the farmer role, it risked further entrenchment of wom-
ens carework upholding heteropatriarchal standards. Therefore, prioritizing femininity
through a self-identified strength of care can open more space for women as well as
widen gender performances in farming, albeit not without reproducing some of the very
masculine logics deemed problematic in the first place.
The benefit of tracing feminine gender performance is that it breaks away from essential-
ist framings of gender in agriculture, an approach that better accounts for the unique ways
that farmers construct and act out their roles, and in the case of our study, some of the
patterns as well. Additionally, performativity takes place in a social context, which means
that it is part of a relational process. As we have shown, this means that while women
farmers face similar structural barriers in agriculture, we can more fully learn about gen-
dered experiences by paying attention to how they navigate this multifaceted reality.
While we have sought to trace some of the gendered dynamics of agriculture through
the lens of women farmers performing femininity, we are left with several questions.
Future research should explore how a feminine approach to agriculture affects com-
munities and the environment differently than a traditionally masculine approach.
Further examining how care practices are implemented across the spectrum of farming
practices, and if men apply care practices differently, would provide another dimension
of how gender affects farming practice. Relatedly, all the women in our study were in
heterosexual relationships. We think it is important to look more closely into the rela-
tionship between gender and sexuality and farming practices (c.f. Leslie 2017). For
example, how and why do LGBTQ þprimary operators perform care outside of a het-
eronormative context? As scholars continue to look into the gendered dimensions of
farming we find that mainstream representations of agriculture as white heterosexual
male are incomplete. Our work is to cultivate a more nuanced understanding.
We would like to thank the farmers who shared their experiences, as well as faculty and staff
from Colorado State University, market managers, and the farmers themselves who made con-
necting with these farmers possible. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the anonym-
ous reviewers, the editors of Society and Natural Resources, and to the special issue editors, Issac
Leslie, Jaclyn Wypler, and Michael Meyerfeld-Bell for their many helpful comments and sugges-
1. Joint-operated farms account for 44% of all farms, female secondary operators account for
two-thirds of those farms (USDA 2012).
2. The current #MeToo Movement suggests the power (and peril) of speaking out.
3. The Front Range refers to the populous Colorado region east of the Rocky Mountains, and
includes the counties under study.
Rebecca C. Shisler
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... They were thereby emphasising an ethics of care, placing relations and 'making a life' at the centre of farming, rather than 'making a living' . Finding that women farmers in the uS expand what it means to be a farmer by practising care work led Shisler and Sbicca (2019) to conclude that care work includes a development of feminist care ethics by establishing connections to other beings and things: 'This ethic includes nonhuman entities, such as the environment, animals, and agricultural land' (Shisler and Sbicca 2019, 879). Importantly, the women farmers do not see these connections as an essential feature of being a woman. ...
... Importantly, the women farmers do not see these connections as an essential feature of being a woman. Rather, feminist care ethics have evolved because of gendered constructions, whereby care has become associated with femininity and motherhood (Shisler and Sbicca 2019). In their study of care ethics in green care, Moriggi et al. (2020) go beyond humans' health and well-being and include more-than-human subjects and non-human objects. ...
... The reasons for pursuing care farming are grounded in a strong conviction that engaging participants in farming nurtures their health and well-being. The farmers therefore seek to create connections between the participants, other humans, the farms and non-human animals (Shisler and Sbicca 2019). Care farmer lotta is clear about the impetus of believing in the benefits of being on a farm and in nature, when she says: 'More people should experience… I myself feel good when I'm with animals and in the forest… There are more and more people who need this' . ...
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In this paper we explore why and how women and men farmers carry out care farming, paying attention to farming being gendered. We engage in geographical research on feminist care ethics to understand care farming by considering the people-place relationships cultivated. We draw on post-structural feminist understandings of gendered farm subjectivities, thereby exploring the emergence of new gender subjectivities. The paper fills research gaps on farmers providing care, and on the gendered nature of care farming. To the feminist geographic theorisations on feminist care ethics, we contribute a post-structural feminist approach. Empirically, the study builds on farm visits and 20 semi-structured interviews with women and men engaged in care farming on 12 farms in rural Sweden. We conclude that care farmers cultivate feminist care ethics as an ontology of connections, by working from the heart. This has meant care farmers are developing people-place and people-people connections. Feminist care ethics is, on the one hand a way of expressing criticism of current societal developments such as productivist agriculture and efficiency orientated welfare provisioning and, on the other, a way of making a difference. Feminist care ethics also includes the development of new gender subjectivities for both women and men farmers. We suggest that care farming implies farming otherwise, which shifts the farms to places of care, instead of food production. Altogether, we argue that care farmers nurturing feminist care ethics challenge the very conceptualisation of agriculture – from cultivating animals and plants to cultivating connections.
... First, our work is informed by research in feminist rural geography and sociology that document women's contributions to agriculture and natural resources (e.g., Sachs 1983) and analyzes women's intertwined roles in agricultural production and social and biological reproduction, exposing gendered power relations and inequities within farming households (Whatmore 1991, Shortall 1999) and farm organizations and communities (Sachs 1996). Recent work shows how tensions between productive and reproductive roles play out in dueling identities of farm women, farm wives, and women farmers (Brasier et al. 2014, Smyth et al. 2018, Shisler and Sbicca 2019 and reveals that women farmers often lead agricultural innovation like use of organic methods (Sachs et al. 2016) and farm diversification (Seuneke andBock 2015, Fhlatharta andFarrell 2017). However, none of this work focuses specifically on women livestock producers. ...
... Maren's experience exemplifies the tendency of a singular construction of "woman" in the rural setting, as hardworking supporter of the man farmer and dedicated mother (Whatmore 1991, Sachs 1996, Brandth and Haugen 1997, Brasier et al. 2014. As Shisler and Sbicca (2019) argued, when motherhood becomes a salient descriptor of a worker, this evokes a discriminatory bias distinct from that produced by gender alone. ...
... Instead, many of our participants perform an alternative feminine approach to rurality by promoting innovative projects and practices like agri-tourism, public education, short supply chains, and organic farming, thereby shifting their carework from the exclusively private to the public sphere. As suggested by Shisler and Sbicca (2019), women are contradictorily aware that such synergy of conservation and innovation through carework helps them to embrace their multiple identities and experiences and subvert masculine assumptions, but also potentially reproduces traditional gender roles, such as food preparation and hospitality as women's work (Wilbur 2014). ...
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Pastoral social-ecological systems (SES) provide myriad benefits to humanity and face multiple challenges in the 21st century, including interacting climate and land-use change, political marginalization, and demographic shifts, leading to loss of traditional knowledge and practices associated with sustainable use. Research and policy increasingly recognize women's roles in sustaining pastoral SES in the Global South, yet women pastoralists in the Global North have received scant attention. In Spain, like other countries in the Global North, the rise of intensive industrialized agriculture contributed to rural depopulation, land abandonment, and the masculinization of rural spaces. In this qualitative study, we address the empirical gap in studies of women pastoralists in the Global North by investigating Spanish women pastoralists' roles in pastoral SES conservation, adaptive transformation, and abandonment (regime shift). Drawing on in-depth life-history interviews with 31 women from 4 regions of Spain, and participatory workshops with women in each region, we explored women pastoralists' diverse identities and roles in conserving, transforming, and abandoning pastoral SES, focusing on 3 levels of social organization: the household/enterprise and local community, the extensive livestock sector, and society broadly. We found that women contributed to all three processes and we highlight synergies between women's roles as tradition-keepers and change agents that could serve as a leverage point for adaptive transformation. Our analysis also revealed key contradictions in women's material and discursive practices; how these are shaped by intersecting axes of social differences such as age, class, origins. and family status; and their implications for policy and practice to foster adaptive transformation of extensive livestock systems. This work advances SES/resilience research by addressing social science critiques of resilience approaches through the application of feminist theories and methodology that center the voices and subjective lived experiences of women pastoralists and attend to the roles of gender and power in SES dynamics.
... Even from the onset, observers noted the strong presence of women in these initiatives (Wells and Gradwell, 2001;Jarosz, 2008;Trauger et al., 2010;Giraud and Rémy, 2013;Ball, 2020), with some even framing the phenomenon as a "women's movement" (DeLind and Ferguson, 1999) or a feminist project, even if not all the women involved considered themselves feminists (Trauger et al., 2010;Sachs et al., 2016;Wright and Annes, 2020). Moreover, studies have highlighted the emancipatory potential of non-traditional farming identities adopted by participating women and genderqueer farmers (Leslie et al., 2019;Wypler 2019;Hoffelmeyer, 2021) in the United States (Keller, 2014;Shisler and Sbicca, 2019), Canada (Hall and Mogyorody, 2007;Laforge et al., 2018), Europe (Unay-Gailhard and Bojnec, 2021), and Australia (Lockie and Lyons, 2001;Newsome, 2021). ...
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In many industrialized countries, there is a strong presence of women farmers in alternative food networks, including within short food supply chains. Studies attribute this phenomenon to the values of care underpinning such initiatives, the possibility for participating women farmers to pursue their own projects (empowerment), and the development of a feminist vision of agriculture. Based on a survey administered to 613 direct-market farmers across Canada (302 women and 311 men), we examine whether women farmers in short food chains have different motivations, beliefs, and occupational experiences than their male colleagues and the extent to which caring values, empowerment, and feminist perspectives explain these differences. Our results show that, in many respects, women farmers have a unique experience and understanding of short food chains, grounded in a desire for caring relations and a belief in the empowering benefits of such marketing arrangements. However, while surveyed women farmers strongly adhered to social and ecological values, these beliefs coexisted alongside economic views more synonymous with conventional farming. Short food chains, despite their potential for empowerment, also continue to present multiple barriers for women, as highlighted by a growing body of feminist scholarship. These barriers include stereotyped perceptions of the role of women in agriculture and struggles balancing work and family life.
... Within the first few months of her work with the PCFA, Teresa noticed public care work being performed mostly by women activists. The prevalence of women in urban agriculture contexts has been observed in prior research (Allen & Sachs, 2007;Martin, 2019;Trauger et al., 2017), despite the fact that women continue to be marginalized in farming more generally (Collins, 2018;Trevilla-Espinal et al., 2021;Portman, 2018;Shisler & Sbicca, 2019). We suggest here that the chronic failure of neoliberal capitalism to bring chemical-free, fresh, and healthy foods to low-income neighborhoods (Agyeman & McEntee, 2014) has resulted in the interpellation of a new, public form of food procurement that relies largely on gendered subjects to perform the majority of its unpaid work. ...
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A growing and significant research literature utilizes feminist frameworks to study relationships with food from a variety of vantage points. In this article, we are especially interested in feminist food sovereignty, feminist political ecology, and feminist theories of care, both because caring labor has been historically undervalued in food systems and because neoliberal modes of commodification and marketization have interpellated activists, scholar-activists, and activist-scholars into new ways of self-care and caring for others. To begin, we provide a brief overview of the places where we work, including the city of Pomona, the Pomona Valley Certified Farmers Market, and the Pomona Community Farmer Alliance (PCFA), a community organization and local activist collective. We then draw on nearly three years of participatory ethnographic work in this community to explore and theorize care work in local food systems activism. Our conceptual framework, framed by feminist food studies and theories of care, illuminates how PCFA members conceive of their own caring work in practice, as well as how they negotiate the complexities of caring for others and self, while being left by the state to do this work. We also explore how activists’ care practices sometimes lay bare structural inequalities and the failure of the state, while also reinforcing and challenging neoliberal ideologies embedded in volunteerism. To conclude, we discuss the gendered implications of our work for food systems research, specifically considering the complementarity of Progressive and Radical approaches to food systems transformation.
... Second, women's roles in farm work have been historically underrepresented in official government data (Shisler and Sbicca 2019). For example, until 2002 only one operator could be listed per farm for official farm census purposes, post which up to three operators could be counted, making the listing and counting of women as farm operators possible in official census data. ...
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In the field of public administration, a feminist appraisal of Weber's bureaucracy has transpired gradually. In this article, we examine the gender ramifications of Weberian bureaucracy, with a specific focus on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Using the feminist critique of the field at large, and the framework of bureau men and settlement women in particular, we critically analyze Weber's ideas of an ideal bureaucracy. Our central contribution is intermeshing Stiver's critical perspectives with the theoretical frames of feminist phenomenology and feminist standpoint theory to craft a feminist model for appraising the agricultural bureaucracy in the United States. In doing so, we demonstrate how women farmers' and landowners' approach to agriculture and farm management is fundamentally different in values and orientation than the USDA's Weberian bureaucratic approach which dictates the design and implementation of agricultural policy.
... The questionnaire was mainly submitted to the farmer/farm owner/ farm manager to complete. As the agriculture industry is still mainly male-dominated [60], most of the respondents (farmers) in this survey were male (87.7%) and between the ages of 40 and 59 (44.2%); 50.3% of the respondents obtained a diploma or degree, and 26.2% were fifth generation (or more) farmers on the land. The profile of the respondents of this study is similar to the profile of farmers in Canada in terms of age, education, and multigenerational characteristics [48], except that 68.8% Canadian farmers were male. ...
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Agri-tourism, which involves tourists visiting working farms for entertainment and learning, has become more popular over the years. This paper focuses on the supply side of agri-tourism and investigates the motives that South African farmers have for offering agri-tourism activities and attractions on their farm. Based on a study with 557 respondents from all nine provinces of South Africa, 148 respondents indicated that they were currently offering some form of agri-tourism. The results identified the most popular agri-tourism activities and attractions as farm stay/accommodation, hunting, hiking/nature trails, and wildlife viewing and photography. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted, which identified two factors, namely, preservation of culture and heritage and economic advantages. Based on the mean values, economic advantages were the main reason why farmers decided to offer agri-tourism activities and attractions.
... gender, race, class, sexuality) interact to shape an individual's resource access, power or oppression (Reed and Mitchell, 2003;Sachs, 1996;Thompson-Hall et al., 2016), and resists overgeneralizing the experiences of particular groups of women. The formation and dynamic nature of women's identities as farmers, farm women and farm wives forms another rich thread of investigation (Brandth, 2002;Brandth and Haugen, 1997;Brasier et al., 2014;Little, 2002;Shisler and Sbicca, 2019;Trauger et al., 2008), together with women's goals and motivations for farming (Sachs et al., 2016), and women's agency and resistance (Cush et al., 2018;Sachs, 1996;Trauger, 2004). ...
Rural studies has made considerable theoretical and empirical progress on gender and agriculture, yet almost none of this work focuses specifically on women involved in livestock production in the Global North. To address this gap, we explored the experiences of women involved in extensive livestock farming in Spain, including their motivations, identities, challenges, and sources of learning and support. Using a life-history approach, we interviewed 29 women across four regions of Spain and conducted follow-up participatory workshops in three regions. We investigated how women enter the extensive livestock sector, learn the occupation and business of livestock husbandry, and their experiences of power relations and discrimination, then interpreted our findings through the lens of Feminist Agrifood Systems Theory (FAST). Women's narratives reveal three primary pathways into livestock management: via family, via a partner/spouse, and from zero. Although interviewees shared common experiences and struggles, each pathway is associated with distinct motivations, challenges, and sources of learning. This variety of goals and experiences disrupts stereotypes about women's roles in extensive pastoralism and points to the need for outreach and policy grounded in the diverse realities of women's lived experiences. Our results underscore the obstacles pastoralist women face in gaining and maintaining economic and decision-making autonomy. Our findings partially support all FAST propositions, yet highlight continuing challenges for Spanish women entering a historically male-dominated sector. In the Spanish context, we found strongest support for FAST propositions 5 and 6, which posit that women must carefully navigate agricultural institutions, often encountering exclusion and discrimination, and that women create their own networks to address their specific needs and advance agroecology and rural sustainability. Increased training for officials overseeing new enterprise incorporations, and investment in women's networks could reduce institutional bias and increase support for women operators.
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A significant portion of on-farm deaths and injuries in Australia occur among young people working on the farm. Since most Australian farms are still family owned and operated, young people are an integral part of everyday operations and the farm is a place where these young people live, work and play. This paper describes how the international Gear Up for Ag Health and Safety™ program, originally developed in North America, was further developed for a younger Australian audience (ages 12–19) enrolled in agricultural programs at secondary or vocational schools. In addition, we share insight on demographics, self-reported farm safety behaviours, and the most common farm tasks being performed by program participants utilising a pre-survey originally developed for program customisation. Of particular importance were the most common farming tasks reported by this group. The most common tasks performed on Australian farms included a large variety of vehicle use (farm vehicles, motorbikes, and quadbikes) and handling livestock. Females reported operating vehicles and other farm equipment at the same rates as males. Males were more likely to be working with large heavy machinery and driving trucks, while females were more likely to be working with livestock and using horses for stockwork. Both males and females reported low use of PPE and poor safety habits. In future Australian programs, it will be important to address the conspicuous use of motor vehicles, quadbikes, motor bikes and machinery at early ages, and to target gender-specific tasks to reduce risks on the farm.
In this article, I address hegemonic masculinities and their geographical contingencies. I focus on when and how space matters and how hegemonic upper-caste masculinities are socio-spatially produced, constituted, and contested. I draw on relational theories in the geographies of masculinities and feminist political ecology. Current theorizing in these fields highlights the role of space/place/environment in the production of subjectivities such that ideas of gender and space arise as co-constitutive. Drawing from these literatures, in this article, I explore the role of construction of and power over land and space; and how land is gendered and caste-laden in the performance of hegemonic masculinities. I also focus on the ways hegemonic masculinities respond to vulnerabilities and challenges within said space. Through this conceptualization, I advance the inter-disciplinary discourse in sociology and geography on the intersectional and spatial emergence of the masculine. Using empirical evidence from Punjab (India) I explore the construction of masculinized spaces and their control by dominant-caste men and highlight the mutually constitutive relationships between space, masculinities, and the caste axis of identity.
Despite an abundance of research on and growing social recognition of women's contributions to farming around the world, in many countries women farmers and their experiences are still relatively invisible to society. Museums Victoria's Invisible Farmer Project, the largest ever study of Australian women on the land, attempted to give voice to women farmers largely through a curated Facebook page. Our research, carried out between 2016 and 2018, examined the posted photographs and text as photovoice, supplemented by qualitative interviews, to understand the farming identities of participating women. Our analysis shows how these photovoices can represent a claim to visibility as farmers and can illuminate how women experience their own farming identities in relation to the landscapes of their farms and their perspectives on farmwork. We highlight the importance of emotional connections and carework in the women's identities. This study contributes to scholarship on emotional geographies by emphasizing the centrality of emotion in how women participating with the Invisible Farming Project construct and experience their farming identities. The importance of this finding lies in how greater visibility of women's farming identities might re-frame social understanding of farming as a relational and not just productive endeavor.
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Over the space of a few generations, women’s relationship with food has changed dramatically. Yet – despite significant advances in gender equality – food and femininity remain closely connected in the public imagination as well as the emotional lives of women. While women encounter food-related pressures and pleasures as individuals, the social challenge to perform food femininities remains: as the nurturing mother, the talented home cook, the conscientious consumer, the svelte and health-savvy eater. In Food and Femininity, Kate Cairns and Josée Johnston explore these complex and often emotionally-charged tensions to demonstrate that food is essential to the understanding of femininity today. Drawing on extensive qualitative research in Toronto, they present the voices of over 100 food-oriented men and women from a range of race and class backgrounds. Their research reveals gendered expectations to purchase, prepare, and enjoy food within the context of time crunches, budget restrictions, political commitments, and the pressure to manage health and body weight. The book analyses how women navigate multiple aspects of foodwork for themselves and others, from planning meals, grocery shopping, and feeding children, to navigating conflicting preferences, nutritional and ethical advice, and the often-inequitable division of household labour. What emerges is a world in which women’s choices continue to be closely scrutinized – a world where ‘failing’ at food is still perceived as a failure of femininity. A compelling rethink of contemporary femininity, this is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the sociology of food, gender studies and consumer culture.
Gendered expectations are central to the continuation of agricultural land tenure systems that concentrate land and power in the control of men. These expectations about how land should be used and by whom are communicated through cultural narratives and maintained through social interactions. Through analysis of qualitative data collected through in-depth interviews with women farmland owners in Iowa, this article identifies a pivotal person without whom the success of these stories is in jeopardy: the "placeholder." In this article, I identify how cultural narratives place two gendered expectations on women in the placeholder position: (1) that women landowners maintain farmland through the continuance of its use and preexisting land agreements with tenants or co-owners, and (2) that women landowners defer their authority as landowners to men. Further, I identify the "changemaker" as an emerging character within cultural narratives-one who refuses to fit the expectations of placeholder and whose behavior may or may not be accepted by the community. Finally, I find that alternative social networks provide enabling environments for changemakers as sites of potential narrative revisions or shifts.
Intimate relationships are foundational to farm viability. They affect how farmers share tasks, earn income, and access land, yet the role of sexuality and heteronormativity in agriculture remains understudied. Furthermore, queer people are largely ignored as potential farmers by the sustainable agriculture and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movements. I document the lived experiences of queer farmers, an underresearched group, through participant observation and interviews with 30 sustainable farmers of various genders and sexualities in New England. I use a queer perspective to illuminate sexualized and heteronormative patterns in sustainable agriculture. Whereas the perception of rural heterosexism can discourage queer participation in agriculture, queer farmers faced less overt heterosexism than they expected. However, they did experience heterosexism particular to sustainable agriculture, and confronting it might jeopardize relationships important for economic and environmental sustainability and land access. Some farmers were attracted to sustainable agriculture for reasons specific to gender, sexuality, and anticapitalist values. I argue that sexuality and heteronormativity are embedded in farmer recruitment, retention, and land acquisition, which are critical for the transition to sustainable agriculture. I offer the sustainable agriculture movement a lens for envisioning alternatives for farm families, homes, and workplaces.
A profound shift is occurring among women working in agriculture-they are increasingly seeing themselves as farmers, not only as the wives or daughters of farmers. The authors draw on more than a decade of research to document and analyze the reasons for the transformation. As their sense of identity changes, many female farmers are challenging the sexism they face in their chosen profession. In this book, farm women in the northeastern United States describe how they got into farming and became successful entrepreneurs despite the barriers they encountered in agricultural institutions, farming communities, and even their own families. Their strategies for obtaining land and labor and developing successful businesses offer models for other aspiring farmers. Pulling down the barriers that women face requires organizations and institutions to become informed by what the authors call a feminist agrifood systems theory (FAST). This framework values women’s ways of knowing and working in agriculture: emphasizing personal, economic, and environmental sustainability, creating connections through the food system, and developing networks that emphasize collaboration and peer-to-peer education. The creation and growth of a specific organization, the Pennsylvania Women’s Agricultural Network, offers a blueprint for others seeking to incorporate a feminist agrifood systems approach into agricultural programming. The theory has the potential to shift how farmers, agricultural professionals, and anyone else interested in farming think about gender and sustainability, as well as to change how feminist scholars and theorists think about agriculture.
A national study explored the demographic similarities and differences among volunteers, agents, and state specialists in the 4-H Youth Development program. All three groups are primarily married females, in their 40's, who work full-time. Agents were both significantly younger and had volunteered fewer years than either volunteers or state specialists. Volunteers worked with fewer adult and teen volunteers than did agents or specialists. Both 4-H participation and level of education were linear, with state specialists having the highest 4-H membership rate and educational level. Volunteers were more actively involved in volunteering for other organizations besides 4-H than either agents or specialists.
The study reported here was designed to identify the people who are most likely to volunteer for the Maine 4-H Youth Development program and determine how they became involved and why they continue to provide service to the organization. Volunteer demographics can then be used to shape marketing and volunteer recruitment efforts, ultimately enlarging a currently dwindling volunteer base for the Maine 4-H program. Although demographic profiles of 4-H volunteers haven't changed much in 50 years, Extension staff should use this information to put new focus on recruitment, retention, and recognition.
The concept of hegemonic masculinity has influenced gender studies across many academic fields but has also attracted serious criticism. The authors trace the origin of the concept in a convergence of ideas in the early 1980s and map the ways it was applied when research on men and masculinities expanded. Evaluating the principal criticisms, the authors defend the underlying concept of masculinity, which in most research use is neither reified nor essentialist. However, the criticism of trait models of gender and rigid typologies is sound. The treatment of the subject in research on hegemonic masculinity can be improved with the aid of recent psychological models, although limits to discursive flexibility must be recognized. The concept of hegemonic masculinity does not equate to a model of social reproduction; we need to recognize social struggles in which subordinated masculinities influence dominant forms. Finally, the authors review what has been confirmed from early formulations (the idea of multiple masculinities, the concept of hegemony, and the emphasis on change) and what needs to be discarded (onedimensional treatment of hierarchy and trait conceptions of gender). The authors suggest reformulation of the concept in four areas: a more complex model of gender hierarchy, emphasizing the agency of women; explicit recognition of the geography of masculinities, emphasizing the interplay among local, regional, and global levels; a more specific treatment of embodiment in contexts of privilege and power; and a stronger emphasis on the dynamics of hegemonic masculinity, recognizing internal contradictions and the possibilities of movement toward gender democracy.