When I first joined Soil Sisters about a year ago, I thought I was joining, as their name implies, a group of women gardeners and farmers. But instead, what I found to my pleasure, is a network of vibrant women who share a commitment to local food, conservation, and community building. I quickly learned while sharing stories around a potluck table, that this is the group for me. Yes, you will find gardeners and farmers, but also scientists, teachers, healers, business owners, writers, artists and the list continues on, but we are so much more than occupations. We are women working to break barriers through collaboration with a mantra of “we all do better, when we all do better”. And we don’t just say it, we practice it.
American Farmland Trust found that in 2019, 51 percent of U.S. Farming operations had at least one woman operator. Of those operations, only 14 percent of those same women were the principal operator and on average, they earned 40 percent less than those operated by men. To say women are at a disadvantage is an understatement. But women operators also know that even with challenges, they can bring greater racial and ethnic diversity and stand out as drivers of local economies, supporting regional job growth, while also being strong conservation land stewards.
A Current Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that in 2020, women are representing 68 percent of the voting demographic with 9.7 million more women casting a vote than men. And this number is growing with each election. There is a sense of urgency now more than ever that we need women to come together for our communities at the local grassroots level to have direct influence over our water, our land, our food systems, our education, our healthcare and our local policy.
With each potluck I attend, I leave feeling energized to be a part of a collective working tirelessly to change those statistics. Trailblazers advocating for clean water, clean air, small and medium family farms, equitable market opportunities and thriving rural communities through policy change. That’s what spurred me into action. I started inviting area women to come together to learn about civics and local government. I was thrilled to have fifteen women gather around my kitchen table, sharing mutual concern and a desire to be more engaged. I’m excited to share that three women are now on the ballot. More of these Civic Circles are in the works and I’m encouraged at the prospects.
If the last few years have taught us anything, although change has come for some, our work is not done. To carry this monumental opportunity to change those statistics even more, we need more women creating community led watersheds, sustainable farms, food co-ops, learning circles, and mental and physical health systems. More women to run for School, Town, Village and County boards, and the State legislature with a goal of creating a community of transparency, resiliency, and sustainability. We need more women to continue to get involved, continue to use our collective voice, but most importantly we need more women to continue to support each other and vote for change because WE ALL DO BETTER WHEN WE ALL DO BETTER.
— Dixie Stechschulte is a wife, mother of three, grandma to four beautiful granddaughters and two handsome grandsons. She lives on a 13 acre homestead with sheep, chickens, corgis and native flower gardens outside Argyle. She is a supporter of all things women led with a passion for local government. Soil Sisters, a program of Renewing the Countryside, connects and champions women in the Green County area committed to sustainable and organic agriculture, land stewardship, local food, family farms and healthy and economically vibrant rural communities.