Strong Women Breaking Ground: Roles of Women in Agriculture in Michigan

Authors: April Shirey*, Western Michigan University
Topics: Gender, Agricultural Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Feminism, Ecofeminism, Agriculture, Women, Michigan, Farmers
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 48
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Agriculture in Michigan is changing. While the number of farms and farmers continue to decrease, women are increasingly taking on the role of farmer instead of the farmer’s wife. The number of female producers increased from 8,275 to 26,059 where the number of producers in Michigan decreased from 56,014 to 47,641 from 2007 to 2017 (USDA, 2007, 2017). Women are becoming the face of farming in Michigan, yet little research examines the impacts of these shifts. In this research, I conduct semi-structured interviews with female farmers throughout lower Michigan to learn more about these women and their lives. Interview questions focus on female farmers’ experiences with agriculture, motivations to farm, attempts to build networks of support for female farmers, and perceptions of their individual farms. The women then take the power of the interview into their own hands to produce a mental map of their farms to literally show what they find important or significant. Mental mapping asks these women to draw their farms and to identify locations they feel are significant, and why they feel these locations are important. This offers another level to my research and offers these women a chance to teach me something about their farm and their lives. The goal of this project is to work with female farmers to understand how they perceive themselves as farmers and to utilize feminist methodologies to examine how women impact agriculture.

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