From the Fields to Farm Aid: Where Are the Ladies?

This year, Farm Aid – that politically-charged, superstar-packed concert and festival that benefits rural farmers – is coming to…New York City. (Don’t laugh! Aside from the Queen County Farm Museum, we may not have many rural acres left in the five boroughs – but appreciation for homegrown food abounds through the city’s many farmers’ markets and CSA communities).

The concert itself is scheduled for September 9th, when I’ll be en route home from a friend’s wedding in Maryland. Regardless, I recently pored over the lineup posted online, glass of wine in hand to drown my sorrows over missing all the fun. I saw the obvious old-timers: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and The Allman Brothers, as well newer bands like Dave Matthews, Guster, and even Matisyahu (Chassidic, reggae, farmboy superstar?).

As I scanned the list, however, I couldn’t help but notice that it was sorely lacking female representation. Where was Allison Krause and Dar Williams? How about Gillian Welch, Aretha Franklin, or Ani DiFranco? I think this is an unfortunate oversight, and one that mimics a phenomenon in the agricultural world.

The National Radio Project writes:

Though women farmers in the United States make up a large percent of food producers, growing vegetables and raising sheep and goats just as men do, they’re often not counted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture only counts deed-holders, and since men hold the majority of deeds in this country, the women who operate farms alongside them are overlooked. (However, I’ve been informed that Lilith has been covering Jewish female farmers for a while…)

More recently, however, women farmers have been gaining public attention for their work. The New York Times and The Economist both published articles in the last few years about women in the field, and in the Jewish farming world, the Adamah eco-farming fellowship is dominated by young aspiring female farmers almost every season. Farm Aid’s organizers missed a great opportunity this year by failing to include strong women musicians in their lineup who could celebrate the emergence of the women farmers across the country.

–Leah Koenig