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Kitchen Notebook

March 08, 2021

The Future Of Farming Is Female

In 2007, women operated 14 percent of all U.S. farms, up from 5 percent in 1978.

Today, 43 percent of U.S. farmland —nearly 388 million acres— is farmed or co-farmed by women. 

We spoke to three of our female farm partners to learn more about their experiences.

Yemi Amu

Yemi Amu is the Founder and Director of Oko Urban Farms. In 2013, she established NYC’s first and only publicly accessible outdoor aquaponics farm - The Oko Farms Aquaponics Education Center.


What led you to becoming a farmer?

I started farming about a decade ago while I was a culinary and nutrition educator. I wanted to close the gap between knowledge about healthy eating and access to healthy foods for low-income clients in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Initially, I was only interested in providing access to healthy food for my clients and teaching them how to grow food for themselves. However, I fell in love with working in nature and realized that being a full time farmer made me happy. 

What’s your favorite part of the job/lifestyle?

There are several aspects of my job that I find fulfilling. One of my favorite is that food + farming intersect so many areas. I get to connect with people of various ethnic backgrounds because of the crops I grow and work with chefs, educators, environmentalists, designers and artists. 

What is your advice for young female farmers?

Farming is a deeply fulfilling profession that is also sacred. As farmers, we grow food, medicine, textile and so much more that the world needs. We cultivate nature and are on the front line of environmentalism. Remember that you are valuable to the world. Treat yourself well. 

How do you envision the future for female farmers?

I envision a future with more woman-owned farming enterprises, particularly among women of color and immigrant communities in the United States. We need policy on federal and state levels that support this. 

What farm chore is your favorite? Harvesting 

Least favorite? None

What is your favorite crop to grow? Okra

What crop do you wish more people would eat? Amaranth greens


Sarah Lyons Chase

Third-generation farmer and now owner, Sarah Chase manages the dairy herd at her family farm where she has been involved in day-to-day operations since childhood.

What led you to becoming a farmer?

I grew up on the same farm I manage now. I didn't fully understand how important this place and this lifestyle was to the essence of me until I moved away and went to college, looking for the life I expected to have. Choosing to come home was a much bigger choice than that, though. I also chose to steward this place in a restorative, regenerative way to help heal and grow life on this farm that has done so much for me and my family. 

What’s your favorite part of the job/lifestyle?

I enjoy working outside and being close to the cycles of nature. It's really humbling to spend your time trying to learn from the plants and animals, the weather and the soil. I also really love the puzzle of finding the best way through with the resources you have and learning to improve over time. 

What is your advice for young female farmers?

Keep it up! Whether you are running your own business or working for other farmers it is also really valuable to find a community that supports and affirms you and maybe even collaborates with you. Sometimes, it can feel like you have to keep up with the boys in this work, but that idea doesn't serve us. Women and LGBTQ farmers are well set up to thrive just by being themselves and celebrating that in all aspects of their work and marketing. 

How do you envision the future for female farmers?

The way I see it, there are more and more women farming all the time and that quantity is tipping the scales and changing conversations within farming. We're looking to be part of healthy, relational economic and ecological systems. We're looking to support our communities and support the planet. I think the future is bright, so long as we continue connecting more people to their food and to the needs of this planet.  

What farm chore is your favorite? Milking the cows! 

Least favorite? Mucking the calf pen.

What is your favorite cheese to make? Stella Vallis

What dairy product do you wish more people would eat?  All dairy! Our yogurt! Or cultured cream.....yum.


Malaika Spencer


Malaika Spencer is the founder of Roots to River farm, a small diversified transitional organic farm located in New Hope, PA.

What led you to becoming a farmer?

I started working at my high school's "mini farm" in the afternoons, growing food for the cafeteria. I fell in love with the experience of "tangible rewards," doing a job alongside friends that was hard but resulted in the satisfaction of feeding myself and my peers. That led me to working on farms in NJ in the summers. I then traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica and Italy to work on farms before college and started working in kitchens where I realized that fresh local food tasted so much better. I mean, a strawberry ice cream made in May from local strawberries was just nothing I had ever experienced before. I studied food science and sustainable agriculture at Hampshire College in Amherst MA and worked on dairy farms, livestock and vegetable farms before starting my own veggie CSA. 

What’s your favorite part of the job/lifestyle?

Tangible rewards still get me up in the mornings. Facilitating a plant from seedling to harvest, looking back after a few hours on hands and knees to see a freshly weeded bed, newly staked tomatoes, farm crew members coming out of the fields, arms full to bursting with bunches of greens, helping people find their inner strength and humor through super hard physical work, the feeling of excitement of a field ready to plant after a long day on the tractor and when parents tell me their baby's first food came from the farm. 

What is your advice for young female farmers?

Get tons of experience. Insist on getting experience with machinery, carpentry, accounting and business management. Farming can be anything you want it to be, it doesn't necessarily have to be a market garden or diversified livestock operation or anything else you read about in books or see on instagram. Be creative, be collaborative. The small scale farm model can be profitable but you have to think outside the box. 

How do you envision the future for female farmers?

The individualistic nature of farming is appealing to a lot of people (including myself) but I don't necessarily believe it can sustain the future of our food system. We will need to be more collaborative, creative and community-minded than the traditional model as the agriculture model shifts in the coming years. I believe this is a huge opportunity for all people getting into farming, including women, to learn to specialize and work together to take on a larger chunk of our food system. 


What farm chore is your favorite? Trellising a row of unruly tomatoes. 

What farm chore is your least favorite? Anything to do with row cover. 

What crop do you wish more people would eat? Radicchio.

What is your favorite crop to grow? Bitter greens.

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