WHAT IT MEANS: Women in farming is a red-hot trend. Gap fashion aside, women's growing interest in sustainable, small-scale farming is leading to farmer's markets full of healthier food for communities. And while the ActionAid report looked at women in agriculture in other parts of the world, rest assured, it's a phenomenon that's bringing food that's healthier food for people and the planet here in the United States, too. The last United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) most recent U.S. Ag Census showed that women small-scale farm owners are the fastest-growing demographic surveyed.
Ready to eat or grow healthy food? Here's how to support—or become—a woman in agriculture:
• Make it part-time. Don't have a traditional farm at your disposal? No problem. There are creative ways to make growing sustainable food a reliable source of income without going into major debt or cleaning out your life savings. You can grow hundreds of—if not 1,000-plus—pounds of produce in your own small backyard. John Tullock's book, Pay Dirt: How to Make 10,000 a Year from Your Backyard Garden (Adams Media, 2010), lays out a business plan, but you can get started by learning about organic growing methods for free at OrganicGardening.com.
• Connect with a retiring farmer. FarmLink.org helps new farmers connect with retiring farmers to keep the land in agriculture instead of selling it off to a developer. Leases give retirees an income and new farmers the opportunity to farm land they might not otherwise be able to afford to farm. (Plus, you might learn some great tips from the leasing farmer…networking is among the best ways to learn about sustainable-farming practices!) "You can be relationship-rich but not land-rich," explains Costa.
• Find a market. If you'd rather support a sustainable farmer rather than become one yourself, visit LocalHarvest.org to find a farm or farmer's market in your area. Be sure to ask about their growing methods, and choose organic growers whenever possible.