Tag Archives: farming

Women Farmers are Breaking New (and old) Ground

Reblogging this fantastic article on women in farming from Grist.  It just speaks to me that I am on the right track with the direction my life is taking now.  I love the farm life!  

Breaking the grass ceiling: On U.S. farms, women are taking the reins

For 56-year-old Tammy Burnell, who lost everything she owned in the 2008 Iowa floods, it’s the freedom to stand in the verdant fields of Burnell Farms in Royston, Ga., and call out to the heavens — and know no one can hear her.

Hannah Breckbill, 25, walked from a career as a mathematician and settled in Elgin, Minn., planting Humble Hands Harvest “to work in something real and be the change I want to see happen in this world.”

Forty-one-year-old Pilar Rebar quit her job as a pesticide applicator when she realized she had been told lies about the chemicals she was spraying on crops. Vowing to only grow “clean and healthy food,” she started up Sunnyside Organic Seedlings in Richmond, Calif.

Meet three of America’s female farmers, the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s changing agricultural landscape. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reported last month that the number of woman-operated farms more than doubled between 1982 and 2007. Add primary and secondary operators, and there are nearly 1 million women in farming, accounting for 30 percent of U.S. farmers.

So hot is ag life that novels about farming are replacing chick lit, offering an unexpected twist to the notion of dirty romance.

Click for a slideshow of female farmers around the U.S.
Click for a slideshow of female farmers around the U.S.


Unlike the Farmettes and Women’s Land Army that took over while men fought in World War II, women today see farming as both a mission and a passion. Some want to provide healthy food for the masses. Others are looking to build community or live a life of deeper meaning.

“Women want to be outside, they want to be near family. There’s lots of interest in where our food comes from, how it was grown,” says Kathleen Merrigan, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We are seeing more beginning farmers coming in and I think the trend is going to continue. Women are [already] outnumbering men in owning smaller farms.”

They arrive on farms — urban and rural, large and small — from two opposite worlds. Many are 40 and older, leaving behind office jobs and careers for the opportunity to get their hands dirty and create something tangible. At the other end of the spectrum are younger women who are coming out of agricultural and environmental science programs with a dedication to food justice, education, and reminding a nation led astray by fast food and TV dinners where its sustenance really comes from. There is also an older generation of women who have outlived their husbands and now own vast amounts of farm and ranchland.

Combined, they are making new inroads for women who are determined to build a life around farming.

Tammy Steele, director of the Oklahoma-based National Women In Agriculture Association, says female farmers have gained the respect not only of the USDA but also of the national farming community. That was missing, Steele explains, during the ’60s back-to-the-land movement, when women were more concerned with breaking the glass ceiling in corporate America than they were in tilling the earth.

What’s more, female farmers have shattered the old stereotypes. St. Paul, Minn.’s Der Thou grows flowers. Teresa Brockman of Eureka, Ill., grows 25 varieties of fruit on her Sunny Lane Farm. Debby Zygielbaum, in her 30s, raises sheep and grows organic grapes, olives, and fruits for Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa Valley, Calif. These women are a garden of variety.

Kristina Beuning runas a CSA and owns the Sunbow Farm in Eau Claire, Wis. She's been farming for 10 years.
Kristina Beuning runs a community-supported agriculture operation and owns the Sunbow Farm in Eau Claire, Wis. She’s been farming for 10 years.

Women do face some unique challenges in this business. Since women’s farms tend to be smaller, many need assistance with business plans and financing. Access to equipment can be limited. Many seek advice on marketing and how to get their goods to the public. As a result, we’ve seen the emergence of organizations such as the National Women In Agriculture Association and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, both of which are seeing their memberships soar, as well as other, less formal networks.

Not everyone needs help, of course. Haylene Green, 68, farms alone on a single acre in Atlanta’s tough West End, raising organic Caribbean vegetables, among them her famous “huge fatty bum-bum” tropical pumpkins. But others set up businesses with friends, sisters, brothers, same-sex partners, fathers, mothers. They’ve created sisterhoods, networks for sharing livestock and tractors, seeds, labor, financial assistance, and know-how.

Many of these networks are still unrecognized by the mainstream, but some are breaking into the open. Soil Sisters offers tours of organic farms in south-central Wisconsin as part of MOSES, the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service. MOSES is led by 46-year-old Lisa Kivirist of Browntown, Wis., who with her husband left a career in advertising at Chicago’s Leo Burnett 17 years ago to start the Serendipity Farm B&BAnnie’s Project, which offers assistance with everything from risk management to business plans to marketing, has expanded nationally.

It makes perfect sense, says Merrigan, the former USDA chief: “Women are agriculturalists globally. The U.S. is trying to catch up.”

What is most apparent, though, is how content these women are with their agrarian lives. “Women make the food choices, they make the choices on what to feed their family, so their movement into farming is very natural,” says Temra Costa, author of Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat and the force behind the website Farmer Jane. Costa lives outside of Oakland, Calif., where she homesteads with chickens and a small vegetable plot.

Tammy Burnell, for her part, says she’s known she wanted to be a farmer since she was 6 years old. Throughout the years she kept having a dream, even though she lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that she was growing vegetables in Georgia, near a pond. “Then the flood came and we lost everything,” Burnell says. What next? She typed “Georgia Organics” into Google and up came an 85-acre farm for rent. “So we loaded our ’57 red Chevy truck bearing a water ring from the flood and took off.”

Burnell uses a plot of the farm she rents to teach young women to farm. She calls them “the blooms.” “What do I love about farming? Teaching. And being able to say I want a fresh salad and walking 20 feet and picking lettuce or a sweet pea for me and a customer,” Burnell says. “Like all the women farming and wanting to farm, I know this: We all want to lift our hands and praise the food, trees, and birds, and scream on the top of our lungs how great it is. And no one hears, not a soul.”

Lori Rotenberk is a Chicago-based journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Boston Globe, Chicago Wilderness Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is also also wild about nature. Follow her on Twitter


Belfire Farm

My gosh it’s been awhile since I have written on here!!  As we can all see the world did NOT end on December 21, 2012…LOL.   I’m just as glad that it didn’t because I would have been too busy to notice.   A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same here on the farm.  We have sort of changed our focus a little bit, we will still be raising herbs for Rod’s medicinals as we always have but we have now added on some animals.   We are now raising Angora goats.  A lot of you reading this will have already seen my babies on my FB page.

How did we get into Angora goats?  Well, we were looking for something else to do on the farm that would help us to be more self sufficient in the future.  We thought about goats because Rod spent some time with a cousin who had dairy goats and he really enjoyed working with and caring for them.  Several friends of ours already have dairy goats and we wanted something different so I started researching.  I decided that I did not want to do Boer goats (for meat) because they get too big and also I didn’t think I could send a goat I had raised from a baby off to slaughter.  In my research I came across Angora goats.  They are not so big, they have absolutely beautiful fleece – like sheep, and their fleece is called Mohair.  It is soft and lustrous and most can be worn next to the skin in sweaters, socks, scarves and hats.  So…I thought, I am a crafty person and I love learning new things so why not raise Angoras for fleece?  I can learn to spin and have always wanted to learn to weave.  One thing led to another and we eventually traveled to two Angora goat farms here in Virginia, Peavine Hollow Farm and Kid Hollow Farm.  Peavine raises all white Angoras and Kid Hollow raises colored Angoras.   Both of them were wonderful and I highly recommend contacting them if you are in this area and want Angoras.   I knew the moment I saw the colored Angoras that they were what I wanted…..of course all of the precious new baby kids with all of the red, brown and black curls helped!   I arranged to purchase a starter flock from Pat Harder at Kid Hollow and we brought them home in early March.  Our first three were Hey Jude, Dear Prudence and Maggie.  We obtained three more a month later when a FB friend needed to decrease his herd.  They are Spice and her doeling Brighid and Mocha.  Mocha has become our herd Queen.

So we have been very busy with our new critters since they came to us, putting up new fencing, arranging barns, building a shearing stanchion, etc.  Prior to this in January we lost a Pygmy doe, Lily, in birth.  We were able to save one of her kids, Sam.  Sam was bottle fed and lived in the house for almost 6 weeks.  That was an experience!  The little bugger still thinks he is a house goat and is sooooo sweet.  In the middle of all of that our young Pygmy doe, Izzy, presented us with triplet doelings with her first freshening at the end of April.   I have posted pics of all of our latest additions below.

Now I just have to find myself a spinning wheel or spindle and learn how to turn all of this fleece I will be having into the beautiful yarns and rovings that I see my goatie friends posting on FB.  All things in good time.

That is something else that I must mention, a shout out if you will.  I have met some of the most wonderful people in the Angora goat forums and the general goat forums on Facebook.  All of them are just as nice as they can be and are quick to offer any help and advice that they can.  Some have years of experience and some are just getting started like me and I have learned something new every day from all of them.   I am forever grateful to those in the Colored Angora Group on FB for all of their knowledge and wisdom on raising these beautiful but often complex animals – Kai Mohair, Persimmon Tree Farm, MamaSheri, Red Falcon Ranch, Scarlet Sunset Sears, Lisa Skillman, Emmelita Hoskins, Judy Willimas, Mindy Wilson and many more….I can’t possibly name them all.   Thank you for your friendship and your advice, it is truly appreciated.

That’s all for now!  Ya’ll have a great day 🙂


Jude 052413_Belfire copyright

Maggie 052413_Belfire copyright

Pru closeup 052413_Belfire copyright

Making sure they all listen_Belfire

Grace is our Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian dog

Grace is our Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian dog

Spice.Mocha.Brighid_Belfire Copyright

Brighid 2.5 months 042313_Belfire copyright

Sam at 5.5 months old

Hmmmm….what to write?

Okay, so here I am.  I have a blog with all of this nice blank space in it….LOL.  What do I write about?  I will start with why did I choose the name “Rosemary by the Garden Gate?”  Well, in trying to figure out a name, everywhere I looked said that the name of your blog should say something about yourself.  Hmmmm.  I love herbs.  I love growing herbs.  My fella and I are working on a business that is about medicinal herbs, among other things.

The title came to me from one of my favorite quotes from the movie Practical Magic. Originally stated by Shakespeare, I think, and elaborated upon by Sally Owens in the movie:

“There are some things I know for certain: always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder; keep rosemary by your garden gate; plant lavender for luck; and fall in love whenever you can.”

There is also that little rumor running around that in a house with Rosemary by the gate, the woman rules….LOL.  I’m not sure about that, but the thought has merit.

In any case, I love herbs.  Rosemary is one of the first herbs that I ever planted in one of my first gardens.  It has many benefits magickally, culinary and medicinally.  The witch in me uses it for protection, it dispels evil and negative workings against you.  It works to bring clarity and positive energy into your home.  That is why you will often see Rosemary sprigs hanging in a witch’s home.  Medicinally, Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis) is a wonderful antioxidant.  It has antibacterial properties and was once burned in braziers in hospital wards as a disinfectant.  It also works as a nervine and relaxant.  It relaxes smooth muscles of the digestive tract as well as the uterus, making it good for a sour stomach and for menstrual cramps.  As a nervine it is good to put in teas for depression and for calming the nerves.  So go buy a Rosemary plant if you don’t have one….even if it’s just for the lovely scent as you brush by it on the way out of YOUR gate….smile.

A little about myself ~ I am a witch, a nurse, a healer, wise woman walking the path of the olde ways.  I am a single mom.  I have 2 boys at the very difficult ages of 10 and 13, both trying to find their way in this crazy world we live in.  I am currently unemployed and not sure I want to be a nurse anymore….at least not the way they think nurses should practice nowadays.  I always envisioned myself as a community healer….a village nurse.  I envisioned this even before I started down the path as a Witch and in some ways it is what drew me to the Craft….the art of being the village wise woman and healer. I really wish folks (not pointing fingers anywhere in particular!) would truly explore what it means to be a witch instead of assuming that we are all devil worshipping evil people.  Nothing could be farther from the truth…..but that is a discussion for another day.

It is not my intention that this blog will be an “herbal remedy” blog.  My fella, The TinMan, has that covered over on Belfire Botanicals (check him out!).  Nor will it be solely about my Path, witches, the Craft or pagans as a regular topic.  It has been my thought that this blog will be for me to discuss (er…ramble on about) what’s going on in our lives as we work with friends in the endeavor of rebuilding a farm.  Our day to day life working to make the farm sustainable again.  Gardening, chickens, and goats eventually.  Maybe even a cow or two down the road.  I will be writing about my (and our) trials and tribulations, the funny stuff and not so funny stuff.  It is going to be a learning and a teaching experience for all of us.  We all have different skills and viewpoints so it should be interesting.

I am sure that some of my political and not so political (witchy) views will make their way into my writings as well….any who choose to read my blog can take from it what they will or not.  No hard feelings.  I believe that we ALL have something to teach and something to learn……not only from each other, but from the Mother Earth and all of her miracles.

I am a spiritual person and lately I’ve been trying to find my way and figure out exactly what that means to me.  I am not Christian, however, I do believe in a higher Spiritual being.  To me, that Higher spirit is most often represented by the Goddess, Gaia, Brighid, Mother Earth.  I believe that Jesus walked the Earth and that he was an incredible Prophet, Teacher and Man…just a man with all of the usual faults of mankind.  How else could he walk in our shoes and know who we are? I don’t know if he was the son of a God or the God, whoever that may be.  Some folks say you have to have Faith in order to believe that….well, I have Faith…in many things, but I also Question.  Another favorite quote of mine is by Thomas Jefferson,

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

The meaning of that to me is clear….if God exists then he gave us the reasoning, the ability to question his very existence.  To question is to learn is to understand.  Not to Fear.

The day I understand it all……I’ll let you know…LOL.  For now, I will close by saying that no matter what happens to you in life, take the best from it and move on….move forward.



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