Femming the Farm? From Targeting Lady Farmers to Women-led Agrarian Justice

Authors: Veronica Limeberry*, American University, Garrett Graddy Lovelace, American University
Topics: Women, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: feminism, food sovereignty, policy, agriculture, grassroots movements
Session Type: Paper
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Allegedly the visibility of gender and gender equity in agriculture has increased. Women grace the covers of USDA reports, FAO mission statements, and Gates-Foundation philanthropy. Agricultural aid targets women growers, and international food security organizations boast of female leadership. Yet, how does this rhetoric--and subsequent policy--translate to the lived experiences of women and women-identified people working in the fields themselves? How does it help protect the bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, and self sovereignty of food and care workers? How does it address and dismantle the patriarchies intersecting in Big Food and Big Ag? The rampant sexual violence and human trafficking in the fields and along the food chain? It doesn’t--and it often draws attention away from these foundational feminist issues. Drawing from La Via Campesina declarations and other Black and indigenous agrarian womanist/feminist writings, this paper analyzes USDA federal policies, the Lova/Garcia civil rights lawsuit, and USAID agricultural aid targeting women internationally. We trace how dominant paradigms of gender-equality rhetoric in mainstream agricultural supports reinscribe racial and class hierarchies, indigenous erasure, and systemic appropriation of social reproduction. In particular, we trace how discursive and logistical individualization of female farmers undermines women’s community organizing, networks, and coalitions--and the intersectional struggles driving these mobilizations. We end asking how such reductive gender-equity agricultural supports and programs could be re-claimed and re-imagined--so as to serve the visions and community organizing of women-led intergenerational, transnational coalitions of farmers, ranchers, fishers, agroforesters, gardeners, seed-keepers, cooks, and food providers working together toward agrarian justice, sovereignty, and nourishment.

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