I’m happy to say that the farming community is growing quickly in Central Oregon. Several CSAs have developed over the past few years and wonderful volunteer programs have sprouted up to recruit locals to help out on the farm.
I have been buying a CSA share through Rainshadow Organics for two years now. Part of the reason I chose it was because it was run by a young woman – how cool is that? Yesterday, I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at the farm with several other people to glean, put the garden to bed and do several other tasks, including moving wood debris in order to clear a space for a flour mill that RO will be building this winter (so awesome!) and moving tree limbs and logs in order to clear a field for wildflowers – part of a grant RO received to create a bee habitat (even more awesome!).
Who showed up for this massive project? Almost all the volunteers were women. There were two men – one being RO’s founder’s boyfriend, and the other a friend of hers – and the rest of us were women. We ranged in age from early twenties to retirees. We spanned the political spectrum from super liberal Green Party members to traditional conservatives. There were nurses, educators, nutritionists, ranchers, entrepreneurs, bakers and everything else you can think of. Some were married, some were dating, some were single. There were some without kids and several mothers in the group – one who brought her adorable 3-year-old son who dug up vegetables and helped us move tree limbs! And in this group of dirt-covered women in brightly colored outer wear, laughing, giggling and gossiping were at least a dozen Master’s degrees.
It was not lost on us that the only two men there were there because of their connection to the owner of RO. We kept asking each other, “Where are all the male volunteers?” as we lugged those giant logs uphill to the splitting pile. I listened to these women talk about their efforts within the community to make our children healthier, our local food more plentiful and affordable, and our citizens more aware of the importance of sustainable agriculture. I listened to some of them talk about the grants they were writing, the co-ops they were forming and the nonprofits they were building. I heard all of this as beets and leeks were being painstakingly dug up, cleaned and sorted, as giant, heavy juniper limbs were being stacked in burn piles, as backbreakingly heavy logs were being slowly hauled up a hill.
I am still amazed by what I witnessed there. These women are major power players in our county. Some of them I would call pioneers for their efforts and success in creating an ever-expanding source of local foods and products and connecting those producers with customers.
Is this the new face of feminism? Women who are rebuilding the fundamental structures of sustainable, compassionate communities? These women gave up an entire day – time they could have spent with their families or at least getting some precious moments of rest – in order to perform physical labor that would have made even a strapping young man’s legs tremble. These women are literally taking back the land, and all on their own. They are becoming integral parts of our local economic and agricultural systems. They are building farms, businesses, nonprofits and educational systems from the ground up, all with the help and support of other women.
Here’s to the farming sisterhood!
(My apologies – I forgot my camera yesterday and didn’t get any pictures of these awesome women. But these pictures are some that I took on the farm last year.)