Using TAPE to assess agroecology on women-led farms in the U.S.
Lianna Gomori-Ruben | Chantal Reid
Agriculture models predicated upon producing monocultures for export have proven unsustainable. In response, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has called for nations to produce food agroecologically in alignment with natural ecosystems. The FAO identified women as critical yet underrepresented leaders in agroecology projects worldwide. Prior research about agroecology and women farmers has primarily been situated in low-income nations. This study examines women farming in the United States as a high-income nation to analyze if their practices align with agroecology using the FAO’s 10 Elements of Agroecology and the FAO’s Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation (TAPE). A mixed-methods case study design was used to collect web-based survey and interview data from 87 participants. We found that the participating women farmers tended to lead agroecological farming projects that provide direct nutritional, environmental, educational, and social services to their communities in alignment with elements of agroecology. Ninety percent of participants operated farms at 100 acres (405 hectares) or less that mostly used direct sales models (farmers markets, community supported agriculture operations [CSAs], farm stands, and online sales), and half of participants offered opportunities for intergenerational engagement. These practices align with the FAO’s elements of Diversity, Co-creation and Sharing of Knowledge, Resilience, Human and Social Values, Culture and Food Traditions, and a Circular and Solidarity Economy. Environmentally, participants emphasized using practices for crop diversity, building soil health, and integrating animals in alignment with the FAO elements of Diversity, Synergies, Recycling, and Resilience. Farm size and region were significant in the prevalence of agroecological practices. Farms of 50–100 acres (202–405 hectares) were most likely to integrate animals, and farms in the Southeast were most likely to identify with conventional agricultural practices. Our data show that women-led farms in the U.S. align with sustainable agricultural practices as articulated by the FAO and, as in low-income nations, women play a valuable role in advancing a national agroecological transition.Show more [+] Less [-]