Bridget Holcomb, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, says that female farmers tend to take a community-oriented approach that also makes it harder for them to secure funding. “We know that, since women are looking at farms that are outside of the box, they’re less likely than their male counterparts to get support,” she says.
“Women don’t ask, ‘Where can I best compete?’” she says. “They look around and ask, ‘What can I do to support my family and my community?’”
Since female farmers tend to focus on less traditional types of farming as they seek to fill voids in their own communities, they are often overlooked by conventional funding systems. “When you come to agriculture from that perspective,” Holcomb says, “you’re not likely to start growing exactly what all of your neighbors are growing. You’re going to start growing vegetables, or you’re going to start a raspberry farm or a goat cheese-making business—something that isn’t met in your community.”
Financing can be an even bigger struggle for women of color. “Women farmers, particularly black women farmers, are often not taken seriously,” says Michelle Louise Bicking, founder and executive director of Hidden Acres Farm in Tolland, Connecticut. “I spent many a packed workshop sitting with seats on both sides of me empty, as if I carried some sort of plague. If dared to speak at all, I’d see white farmers roll their eyes or chuckle out loud.”