Women are an inherent and critical part of the global agri-food sector and are a valuable resource for farming within Canada. Women have important roles to play in addressing current challenges, such as rising land values, fluctuating and uncertain commodity markets, new disease risks and climate change. However, the role of women in agriculture has traditionally been less visible than that of men. Women are becoming more prominent in some subsectors (particularly in alternative agricultural approaches) and amongst new entrants to farming. Women are also increasingly taking on leadership roles in Canada, but are still under-represented within the highest levels of leadership within Ontario and Canada’s farming organisations. Recent research at the University of Guelph has explored different aspects relating to the role of women in the agricultural sector, but this work is fragmented between colleges. Research is also being conducted by Ontario’s farming organisations into the characteristics and roles of their members.
Reconizing this, on April 23, 2019, academics, advocacy organizations, and leaders from the agricultural industry met at the University of Guelph to identify common interests and develop an action plan for future collaboration on supporting women in agriculture. Facilitated by Dr. Lee-Ann Sutherland (The James Hutton Institute, Scotland), and supported by the Guelph Chair in Gender, Justice and Development, the Arrell Food Institute and the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, the day-long workshop brought together 18 leading researchers, emerging scholars, industry experts, and leading women in agriculture. The group will continue to work together over the coming months to develop common priorities and set a research agenda to strengthen the focus on women in agriculture.
Ashleigh Weeden (Phd Student, School of Environmental Design & Rural Development) joined the working group to support linkages between initiatives intended to support increasing the visibility of women in agriculture and the important role agricultural organizations plan in rural development. Ms. Weeden will be supporting the working group in developing a position paper on this important issue and through linking the working group to broader rural policy and rural development initiatives.