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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Female Leaders Cultivate New Initiatives to Bolster Role in Agriculture

June 2, 2011 |

Women are a growing force in today’s food movement and they’re not going anywhere. From 2002 to 2007, the number of women farmers increased by 30 percent.

To support and bolster this growing crop of women farmers and activists working to transform the nation’s food system, from federal agriculture policy to plate The White House Project (WHP), Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) and Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) have collaborated on a project called Plate to Politics.

Cultivate 2012 is a collaboration of WFAN, MOSES and The White House Project

One of the major outcomes of this collaboration is Cultivate 2012, a summit that took place last week at the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin. The summit brought together a diverse cross-section of approximately thirty women leaders and activists for the purpose of networking, and initiating discussions regarding challenges and solutions for women involved in the sustainable food and farming movement.

“This group especially possessed a valuable range of ages; we had both long-time activists in addition to new and young farmers,” said Leigh Adcock, Executive Director of WFAN  and one of the organizers of Cultivate 2012. “We did intentionally try to identify and bring together that cross-section of women, from urban growers to rural communities, from technical assistance people to bloggers.”

Outcomes and Initiatives

The organizers including Lisa Kivirist, Director of MOSES’ Rural Women’s Project along with Liz Johnson, National Director of WHP’s Rural Women’s Leadership program, and Adcock agreed that Cultivate 2012 resulted not only in several new initiatives to benefit women in the healthy food and farming movement, but also fostered bonds of community and collaboration. “Ideas were going back and forth like a literal ping-pong game,” said Kivirist. “From joint ventures on grant applications to one participant’s needs being fulfilled by another, we had known that these things would happen, but we were especially amazed by the synergistic energy of Cultivate 2012.”

Johnson said that the following new initiatives and action items emerged from the discussions at Cultivate 2012: the creation of a national database of inspiring stories about women farmers; the education of congressional leaders and voters on food issues; the training and preparation of women for leadership roles ranging from rural co-op boards to county commissions to state legislatures; and the development of media messaging on behalf of women in sustainable agriculture.

When asked about the most pressing initiatives for the conference participants and organizations involved Adcock said: “Our current efforts need to be focused on the upcoming election and the discussion of the Farm Bill. We need more women at the table as these issues are discussed. At the national and grassroots level, in the congress and in the White House, more women need to be represented.”

30 Women Leaders in Sustainable Agriculture at Cultivate 2012

The Woman Leaders Supporting Cultivate 2012

Getting Involved

Johnson recommends that women follow and engage with the work of the collaborative by visiting the Plate to Politics website for updates on initiatives and opportunities to effect change. “There are many direct opportunities, such as Go Run training for women interested in running for political offices, and the partnership In her Boots: Sustainable Agriculture for Women, by Women which is a Midwest-based project to help champion new women farmers,” said Johnson.  “We also encourage women to fill out our Cultivate 2012 survey, attend a training session, run for office, refer a friend for these opportunities, apply to be an intern, send a postcard to an elected official, and more.”

Adcock suggests that women visit the WFAN website to find local and regional opportunities such as events and training programs.

The Future

Though no follow up meeting is scheduled at this point, Adcock, Johnson and Kivirist agree that gatherings similar to Cultivate 2012 must happen to ensure that women leaders are evolving, anticipating, and growing with the food movement as it continues to evolve.

From the farmhouse to the White House, women have a growing opportunity to impact the food movement. WHP, WFAN and MOSES encourage you whether you’re a farmer, a student, a mother, or an activist, to become involved today, to arm yourselves with stories and passion, and to be a force of change for women and agriculture in your community.


About The White House Project:

The White House Project is a non-profit organization which aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors—up to the U.S. presidency—by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women.

About Women’s Food and Agriculture Network:

The Women’s Food and Agriculture Network mission is to link and empower women to build food systems and communities that are healthy, just, sustainable, and that promote environmental integrity.

About Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service:

The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) serves farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques. These farmers produce more than just food; they support thriving ecosystems and vibrant rural communities.

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