Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
The number of women farmers in the US continues to grow even at a time when the number of men farmers is decreasing. But even as women are experiencing growing representation in this historically men-dominated occupation, they are more likely to operate smaller farm operations, own less land, and earn less than men farmers. Additionally, there are barriers to accessing the full farmer identity due to their invisibility in the largely patriarchal structure of agriculture. In this dissertation, I endeavor to learn more about how women farmers navigate the gendered structure of farming, including barriers to accessing occupation-related resources and their farmer identity, and how women farmers are “doing” or “undoing” gender. Utilizing in-depth qualitative interviews, I interviewed 32 women farmers from 11 states and the country of Italy. I find that three main gendered structural barriers were experienced by the women farmers in this study, including access to capital-related resources, learning how to farm, and the women’s perception of conventional agriculture as a masculine occupation. I contributed to the growing “doing and undoing gender” literature by showing that the women in this study were actively engaged in interactions within and outside of their occupation that both conformed to and resisted traditional gendered expectations, demonstrating that doing and undoing gender is contextual and more of a spectrum than mutually exclusive categories of either/or. I also contributed to the “doing difference” literature by including women farmers of color, whose perspectives have been absent from previous research of women farmers. Their narratives included examples of discrimination and unequal treatment due to their race and gender, demonstrating a clear need for an intersectional analysis of women farmers. I conclude with a discussion of these implications and make policy recommendations based on knowledge gained from this research and offer suggestions for future research.
This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.