Iowan Women Farmers' Perspectives on Alternative Agriculture and Gender


  • Andrea Rissing Grinnell College



Agriculture, Women Farmers, Gender, Sustainability


After decades of being seen as "farm wives," an increasing number of women in American agriculture are actively farming and claiming the "farmer" identity. Previous research has demonstrated that women farmers face unique challenges and that women in the alternative agriculture movement value different elements of agricultural work than their male counterparts. This ethnographic study of 11 women farmers in Iowa's alternative agriculture movement seeks to address how these women understand the relationship between their gender and their work. The majority of the women interviewed feel that their gender influences their general farming perspective, but significantly fewer believe their gender affects their approach to farm sustainability. Interviewees pointed to women's problem-solving skills, concerns with health and family, and intuitive relationships to the earth as ways in which their gender impacts their general farming perspective. Interviewees were more likely to indicate their education, coworkers, or participation in farm organizations as influential in shaping their farm's sustainability. In distinguishing between these two areas, women farmers selectively engage and reproduce culturally gendered traits when positioning themselves within alternative agriculture.


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Author Biography

Andrea Rissing, Grinnell College

Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa 50112 USA.

Andrea L. Rissing is now a doctoral student at the Department of Anthropology, Emory University; 207 Anthropology Building; 1557 Dickey Drive; Atlanta, Georgia 30322 USA.



How to Cite

Rissing, A. (2013). Iowan Women Farmers’ Perspectives on Alternative Agriculture and Gender. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 3(2), 127–136.



Open Call Paper