Feminism Telesummit with Denise O'Brien - Women, Food and Agriculture
Denise O'Brien is a woman whose life has been devoted to raising women’s voices in agriculture. She married a farmer and became one at a time when women still called themselves "farmer's wives." Women farm differently and sustainably, and we are changing the face of agriculture. Women own over 50% of rented farmland in the U.S., and grow 75% of the world's food. CSAs allow consumers to share in the risk and help break the farmer debt cycle. Land Trusts are leasing farmland to beginning farmers. Hear the good news of Feminism and Sustainability!
Denise O'Brien, Founder of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN)
Denise O'Brien is the Founder of the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network, a community of women in sustainable agriculture. Denise was president of the National Family Farm Coalition, and a USDA adviser in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Iowa Farmer’s Union, and in 2000, Denise was inducted into Iowa’s Women’s Hall of Fame.
1970s - Denise married a farmer and learned how to drive a tractor, plant crops, and care for animals. She learned that the language of farming is about the weather, the soil, and fertility.
l980s - The Farm Crisis hit, and Denise met a lot of women farmers calling themselves farmer's wives. Denise read "The Invisible Farmer" and "Farmer's Wives," and learned that women farmers everywhere were stepping forward and adding to the economic well-being of their families. Feminism was growing among women in agriculture and they began seeing themselves as farmers.
1990s - Denise did international work and found out that 75% of the world's food is grown by women without any recognition. That's when she started WFAN to link and amplify women's voices, and to address the insurance and pay inequality of the time.
2000 - Corporations own everything from beginning to end, and farmers had become the "workers." Women were at the forefront, sounding the alarms, regarding GMOs, fracking, pesticide use, and the connections between processed foods and health issues.
2015 - Due to women living longer than men, women are inheriting family farms. Women own more than half of the "rented" farmland in the U.S., but men continue to make the decisions. WFAN's Programs are linking and empowering women to build food systems and communities that are healthy, just and sustainable.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms are increasing in number. You buy a membership and receive a weekly box of seasonal produce. This is a way for consumers to share in the risk the farmers take with weather and pests, and to help break the "cycle of debt" for the farmers by providing dependable economic support.
- Women are farming smaller sized farms with the goal of feeding their communities. Food to eat vs. commodity crops.
- Some women are donating their farmland to Land Trusts to keep their land in crop production in perpetuity. Land Trusts are then leasing this farmland to beginning farmers who could not otherwise afford to get into farming.
Denise says, “My life has been devoted to raising women’s voices in agriculture. My dream is that the landscape of industrialized agriculture will change as women become the decision makers on their land. To that end, I will devote my time on this earth -- to women, prairie restoration, and seed saving.”
Denise speaks at conferences and events on topics like women and agriculture policy, organic agriculture, practical approaches to organic farming, women’s relationship to the land, sustainable living, food security and international perspectives on women in agriculture.