written by Kira Montagno, assistant operations manager
I remember when I graduated from Bryn Mawr in May of 2009, I had no clue what I wanted to do. But, one week after graduation I found myself sweating to death in a barn trying to lift a fifty-pound hay bail as I worked as a farm intern for a local farm. It was one of the best experiences of my life, but I will never forget one thing the owner told me.
Between picking blackberries one afternoon, the owner explained why women make better farmers than men. He proceeded to tell me it was because women had smaller hands and were gentle when picking fruits and vegetables. I wanted to tell him – which I didn’t – women have always been great farmers. We still are great farmers and it has nothing to with our “small hands.”
Women have played a vital role in agriculture, but the invention of the plough changed many societal gender roles that had been established. A plough requires upper body strength and the ability to control a heavy animal and men believed the task of ploughing was not suitable for women.
Scholars believe that cultural norms of today’s society can be traced back to the advent of the plough. Societies that historically used the plough have maintained very strict gender roles, ultimately making the woman reliant on the man, compared to hoe-based farming societies, where women have continued to be heavily involved in agricultural practices.
During the first and second World Wars, there was a major shift in the roles that men and women played in American society. Men were being sent to war and women were filling their roles in all aspects of society by working in factories, playing on baseball fields, and farming the land. With the changing political climate, women were able to secure jobs in many different realms that may not have been possible a couple of years prior.
According to the 2012 census, the amount of women owning and running farms has increased by 30% since 2007. Agricultural studies have shown that male farmers tend to lease large-scale farms and operate grain and cattle ranches. Female farmers, on the other hand, tend to own a higher percentage of their land while growing a greater diversity of crops, practicing humane farming techniques, and working directly with their consumers.
Given these statics one could say that if more women farmed it would create a healthier food system in America. Women are great farmer and it has nothing to do with their “small hands.”