Who are American farm women? In film, television and books, the farmer is almost always a man. Women are portrayed gathering eggs or milking cows, ringing dinner bells and scrubbing laundry. Oregon Historical Society’s current exhibit, “Voices of American Farm Women,” running now through October 5th, gives a very different perspective of women on the farm.
The exhibit showcases the work of photographer Cynthia Vagnetti, whose striking black and white photos and corresponding oral histories share the stories of 30 contemporary female farmers and their relationship to the land.
Visitors learn about the individual contributions of these women. Many are innovators in the industry, working to find solutions to the complex economic, environmental and social challenges of modern farming. Their contributions are vast, from participation in Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) to running teaching-farms that give youth and adults hands-on experience in growing healthy whole food.
The exhibit reveals a diverse group of women. Some come from multi-generational farm families, while others left promising careers for work that brings them more satisfaction. Many are mothers, and some work second jobs. One woman chose farming because she wanted to involve her children in her work. Another turned a passion for growing organic vegetables into a viable business. Whatever their reasons for farming, they are all challenging traditional gender roles.