Clare grows her own blueberries. Then she picks them, washes them, sorts them, and takes them to town to sell at the local farmer’s market. If she has any left, she sells them on the side of the road, out of the back of her truck. At home she also manages the livestock: lambs, horses, rabbits and dogs.
Clare identifies herself as a farmer, but is pretty sure that if she engaged in a more traditional, productivist form of agriculture, she would be hard-pressed to find anyone else who would identify her as such.
According to a study (from where I have lifted Clare’s story) by Amy Trauger, Professor of Geography at UGA , Clare is a minority in multiple dimensions. Firstly, as a woman principal farm operator, she joins a cohort of only 306,000 others, a mere fraction of the overall farming community. But even within that community, Clare is a minority. Most women in agriculture, even if they perform the same duties as their male counterparts, refuse to self-identify as farmers. The vision of the farmer as a big, strong and tough male is so strongly imbued in collective consciousness that most women farmers are not willing to transgress gender lines, regardless of the duties they perform. In fact, the US Census of Agriculture did not even include gender as an operator characteristic until 1978!
Naya Mukherji is a first-year at the La Follette School.