As Audra Mulkern walked through her local farmers’ market one day, she noticed a pattern from table to table. Behind each booth was a familiar face that is usually missing from the agriculture narrative—a woman. “These were women who were essentially the stewards of my local food system and economy,” said Mulkern “I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it before.” Upon further research Mulkern noticed that throughout history women have been left behind in this narrative, especially the visual one.
Based in the Pacific Northwest, the Female Farmer Project shines light on the valuable role women play within the agriculture industry. The project is a hybrid, a genre in itself, and what Mulkern calls a documentary project. It is a multi-media and multi-audience platform that not only tells the modern day story, but digs into history. It brings women to the forefront, most importantly through images. The images act as a tool to reframe the agriculture story to credit all the players.
Along with the images, there are profiles, an “ask a farmer” section, and guest essays. More recently, the project added a podcast segment. With most of the audience being “non-ag,” Mulkern wanted to do something for the farmers. “I wanted to not only capture their stories but their advice,” she said. “And then distribute it in a way that is really easy for a farmer to consume while working.” Mulkern and her team of three volunteers are continuously growing their vision for the Female Farmer Project. They recently sent out a proposal for a book that would focus on female farmers in the U.S. today. They have also started writing and filming for a documentary that explores the history of women in agriculture in North America.
Through multi-medium platforms, Mulkern hopes that the project can act as a mirror for female farmers, to show them all the amazing things they are doing, and for the rest of us. “I want to be that bridge between ag and eater,” said Mulkern. “I think it is important that as consumers and eaters, we tune back into our food system and the people who make it work.” Women have played a large part historically in agriculture, and continue to today. This project peaks into an aspect of agriculture that hasn’t been seen as much before.
“Women have always been there on the farm,” says Mulkern, “and it’s time to give them their due.”-Shayna Kuffert
(All images from http://www.femalefarmerproject.org/gallery/)