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Fieldwork, oil painting by Jess Weatherhead.

The spotlight is on women farmers in Sowing the Future

By Jamie MacPherson on September 27, 2022

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In fields all over Ottawa and the surrounding area, real, positive change is growing. Sowing the Future: Women Farmers + EcoAgriculture, an arts exhibit about women farmers in the Ottawa/Outaouais region, focuses on some of the many local farming change-makers as they address pressing regional issues.

Erin Krekoski, Bastienne Duncan Chatelain, and grazing cattle at Rock’s End Farm. Photo: Barbara Brown.

Artist and farmer Jess Weatherhead, co-owner of Roots and Shoots Farm, was painting portraits of women farmers who worked outside the spotlight and whom she admired. When Barbara Brown, a local photo-based artist, viewed these canvasses, the idea for an exhibition was sparked. Brown thought writer and poet Diane Perazzo’s lyrical pieces would further articulate the painted portrait depictions. Finally, retired farmer Colleen Ross was invited to write an essay outlining the current issues women farmers face. The outcome was a collaborative arts project titled Sowing the Future, which opens September 30 at Roots and Shoots Farm and runs through October 2 as part of their annual Farm Fest.

Portrait of a women farmer. Oil on panel. Jess Weatherhead.

The event will showcase seven women “who are farming in a way that is mindful of the environment, restores and builds soil quality, sequesters carbon and protects local biodiversity [while] providing nourishing local food to thousands of people in the community,” Brown says.

Colleen Ross making roasted salsa at Roots and Shoots Farm. Photo: Barbara Brown.

Attendees can take in the moving portraits and photos that comprise the exhibition, as well as participate in other fun family events such as local food and market vendors, live music, self-guided walking tours, artists’ talks, farmers talks, kids’ activities and more.

Geneviève Legal-Leblanc of Ferme et Forêt. Photo: Barbara Brown.

Brown says that for Canada’s many women farmers, entering an exceptionally difficult, volatile field is an enormous, but ultimately rewarding, task that benefits us all. They have “a direct relationship to the land they farm; are highly place-based, and are working in relationship to the environment. [They] are the interface between urban life and our local environment. They are the bridge for urban folks to have access to high-quality locally grown food, creating community connections around food and building resilience in our local foodshed.”

Catherine Wallenburg of Northern Seeds. Photo: Barbara Brown.

She says these women farmers are ably demonstrating how micro-agriculture is an innovative solution to many environmental and social problems; how it’s possible to grow a large variety and high quantity of food locally; and that “you can farm on a modest scale that uses primarily human labour to grow food while working side by side with their families and children.” Brown adds that this forward-looking approaches ensures that high-quality soil is available for farming in the future.

Charlotte Scott of Ferme Lève-Tôt. Photo: Barbara Brown.

Despite their many significant contributions, Brown says women farmers are frequently overlooked and belittled in our society. She points to the way farm equipment ads are extremely out-of-date. These stereotypical prejudices from marketing of the past miss the fact that “women make up 70% of the world’s farmers, yet when we think of farmers, we don’t typically think of women farming, but playing a supportive role on the farm,” says Brown. Sowing the Future “shines a spotlight on a few farmers, but also points toward many others in the area who are doing similar things.”

Isabelle Rodé of Vintage Soil Farm. Photo: Barbara Brown.

What can you do to help? In addition to buying local foodstuffs and visiting farmer’s markets, which helps “re-educate our palates toward more nutritious foods [and] reduces the carbon footprint of our food,” Brown suggests learning about what is produced in your local foodshed; visiting a farm and buying their products; buying a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share where you pay a farmer ahead of the season and then receive a share of their produce each week or two; and learning why Wendell Berry said “eating is an agricultural act.”

Juniper Turgeron of Juniper Farm. Photo: Barbara Brown.

From farms to farmer’s markets to food stores, our local women farmers are revolutionizing the art of farming for the betterment of our planet and their communities.


Sowing the Future: Women Farmers + EcoAgriculture opens Friday, September 30, with a reception at Roots and Shoots Farm in Ste-Cecile-de-Masham, Quebec, and continues October 1 and 2 from 10am to 5pm. Visit their website to learn more. 

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