New women farmers in the Netherlands

7 minuten leestijd
Auteur Tasch Arndt

Tasch Arndt doet onderzoek naar vrouwelijke boeren en hun rol in de opkomst van duurzame landouw. Super leuk om aan mee te kunnen werken natuurlijk! Lees hier meer over Tasch en het hoe en waarom van het onderzoek waar ze mee bezig is.

My name is Tasch and I am passionate about sustainable farming, the protection of nature and the livelihoods of farmers. I have been a wwoofer on organic farms in Ireland and New Zealand, completed a Permaculture course in Australia and was also the veggie-box coordinator at my local organic food co-operative in Sydney.

I’m currently conducting research for my master’s thesis (Human Geography) at the University of Amsterdam and have decided to pursue a topic that inspires me: new women farmers and their contribution to transforming the food system. I am conducting my research from now until the end of April and am happy to travel around the Netherlands to meet the new women farmers who are farming in sustainable ways.

Ben je zelf vrouw en eerste generatie boer? Neem dan contact op met Tasch: ze is nog opzoek naar deelnemers voor haar onderzoek – er is een vragenlijst en ze neemt interviews af: tascharndt@gmail.com

I am inspired by the many small-scale farmers who are striving to make food and farming more sustainable and are leading the transition away from the destructive industrialized food system toward a sustainable system based on agroecology and care for nature and farmers. For this study, I am specifically studying new women farmers who are farming in agroecological ways. I am defining new women farmers as farmers of any age, who have established a farm in the last fifteen years and did not inherit a family-farm. These new farmers usually enter farming from non-agricultural backgrounds, or they are returning to a family-held farm after a minimum of ten-years of off-farm work or education. This study relies on the self-identification of women farmers, as this allows participants to set a broader definition of what it means to be a farmer and what constitutes a farm (Genello 2018; Trauger 2004).

Emerging literature indicates that new women farmers may be at the forefront of a transition toward sustainable agriculture rooted in agroecology, while food sovereignty movements have long emphasized the importance of peasant women (Monllor-Rico & Fuller 2016; Mpofu 2018). This research aims to contribute to the debate on new farmers and make visible the agency, struggles and contribution of new women farmers in the Netherlands. In conventional agriculture, there remains a pronounced gender gap where women are underrepresented in the farming sector. Recent studies investigating the emerging group of new farmers in Europe have demonstrated that new entrants to farming are more likely to be women and practice sustainable methods, such as agroecology and organic farming (Monllor-Rico & Fuller 2016).

These new women farmers represent an important group, as they are becoming farmers, even while women are discouraged from conventional agriculture, and the process of becoming a new farmer poses serious barriers and challenges, such as access to land, knowledge and finance (Access to Land 2018; Monllor-Rico & Fuller 2016). Across the world there is little data on the contribution of women to agriculture, and peasant women are often marginalized and ignored (GRAIN 2014), however, some studies demonstrate that women farmers are more likely to farm in sustainable ways (Trauger 2004). There is a lack of research investigating new entrant farmers, and a specific gap in literature investigating the new women farmers of Europe. The agency of women farmers is key to the food sovereignty debate and La Via Campesina’s fight for peasant rights and agroecological farming. Elizabeth Mpofu (2018), general coordinator of La Via Campesina and organic farmer, has explained that food sovereignty is feminist issue, and there is a need to keep the struggles of peasant women alive.

Mpofu (2018) explains that the struggle against patriarchy and its system of pronounced capitalist relations is an essential element of food sovereignty. Patriarchal structures have commonly underpinned the process of gendering agricultural roles; constructing the invisibility of women farmers and dominant ideologies of women as ‘farmwives’, rather than farmers (Riley 2009). Peasant women have been key to La Via Campesina’s definition of food sovereignty, and they have the voices that can lead the transformation of farming (Mpofu 2018). They are at the forefront of creating alliances to build and strengthen the “vision of a new society founded on gender relations based on dignity, justice, quality and equity” (Mpofu 2018, p. 10). La Via Campesina defines its own form of feminism and struggle for gender equality called ‘Popular Peasant Feminism’ (Mpofu 2018). Peasant feminism is differentiated from other feminist movements as it does not want a separate women’s movement, rather, it wants “women and men to walk together as equal partners in a larger struggle” (Mpofu 2018, p. 11). It is important that the food sovereignty literature focuses on the struggles of women in the Global South, as these women still face serious issues, such as lack of rights and access to land ownership, however, while the situation in Europe is improved, it is still unequal (GRAIN 2014). Research has shown that even in the Global North, rural women struggle against many obstacles when trying to begin a new business, and even in the Netherlands, women have less opportunity to receive government subsidies when compared to men (Bock 2004).

This study takes a food sovereignty lens that places peasant women at the centre and is grounded in the principles of the protection of nature and farmer’s livelihoods. This study seeks to make visible and characterize the new women farmers in the Netherlands and understand their experiences, challenges, and motivations. Further, this study seeks to investigate how new women farmers are patterning their farms in agroecological ways, and finally questions how they might be contributing to sustainable food systems by exercising their agency and participating in collective action.

I hope to make this study genuinely inclusive and representative and draw on participatory approaches, which are key to the study of food sovereignty, peasant farmers, and the empowerment of women. This study will include the perspectives, experiences, concerns and interests of women farmers. Using the methods of an online survey, interviews and observation, I hope to investigate the experiences of new farmer women and their contribution to transforming the food system toward sustainability and agroecology.

I will be sending out surveys and interviewing new women farmers, so please contact me if you are interested in participating!

I really hope to hear from you soon and would love to get your insight on what it’s like to be a new woman farmer in the Netherlands!

Groetjes,
Tasch

tascharndt@gmail.com / 0686 277 311

References:

  • Access to Land 2018, Europe’s new farmers, prepared by the European Access to Land network, viewed 28 February 2019, accessible at https://www.accesstoland.eu/Access-to-land-for-new-entrants
  • Bock, BB 2004 ‘Fitting in and Multi-Taking: Dutch Farm Women’s Strategies in Rural Entrepreneurship’, Sociologia Ruralis, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 245-260.
  • Genello, L 2018, ‘From Food Forest to Microfarm: Values, Practices and Relations of First Generation Farmers in the U.S. and the Netherlands’, Master’s thesis, Wageningen University and Research, viewed 18 February 2019, accessible at http://edepot.wur.nl/446099
  • GRAIN 2014, Hungry for land, prepared by GRAIN, viewed 9 March, accessible at https://www.grain.org/media/W1siZiIsIjIwMTQvMDYvMDQvMDdfMjlfMjNfODc0X0dSQUlOX0h1bmdyeV9mb3JfbGFuZC5wZGYiXV0
  • Monllor-Rico, N & Fuller, AM 2016, ‘Newcomers to farming: towards a new rurality in Europe’, Documents d’Anàlisi Geogràfica, vol. 62, no. 3, pp. 531-551.
  • Mpofu, E 2018, ‘Keeping the Struggle of Peasant Women Alive’, Fair World Project, pp. 10-12, accessible at https://fairworldproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Keeping-Struggles-of-Peasant-Women-Alive.pdf
  • Riley, M 2009, ‘Bringing the ‘invisible farmer’ into sharper focus: gender relations and agricultural practices in the Peak District (UK)’, Gender, Place and Culture, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 665-682.
  • Trauger, A 2004 ‘‘Because they can do the work’: women farmers in sustainable agriculture in Pennsylvania, USA’, Gender, Place and Culture, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 289-307.

 

 

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