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Hosted by Knesha Rose-Davison
Special Guests: Nicole Gwishiri
All right. Well, hello. Welcome to this month's bonus edition of Talking Total Farmer Health. Today I will be your host, Knesha Rose-Davison, where I normally serve as the public health and equity director with AgriSafe, leading our diversity, equity and inclusion programming, some worker safety programming, and also programs targeted towards educators and youth work in agriculture for the first time. I'm very excited to have this special bonus episode for Black History Month, where I will be speaking with Nicole Gwishiri from the American Farmland Trust, where she serves on the Women for the Land Southeast Program Manager. So before we get started with our questions, just tell our audience a little bit about yourself.Nicole:
Sure. Thanks. So once again, my name is Nicole Gwishiri and I work currently with the Women for the Southeast program manager with American Farm Land Trust. American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit that helps to conserve land. So we we aim to keep farmers on their land, to incorporate conservation practices and to get farmers the resources that they need to sustain their farming operations. And I specifically work in the Southeast, so Kentucky, North Carolina, a little bit of Virginia and extending into Georgia. And I helped specifically work with black women farmers to get the resources that they need in their farming operations.Knesha:
Wonderful. Well, we're very excited to have you. And that sounds like a very worthy project. We're glad to have you on to talk a little bit more about it. So you kind of mentioned it in your introduction, but just tell us a little bit more about the Women for the Land Southeast Project and how it got started.
Um sure. Yes. So I've worked with American Farmland Trust for almost a year to be March 28th of last year that I left Cooperative Extension. So you mentioned working with ag students and educators. I used to teach family and consumer sciences before coming into the work of Cooperative Extension. So I was totally like a total educator for the past 13 years. And then I saw this post through my HBCU historically black college. Alma mater I went to North Carolina Agricultural Technical State University and saw this posting and thought like, This is a great project to work on to help black predominantly black women farmers. But working with all women in the Southeast to extend their farming operations because women have a specific barrier to agriculture and how to work around that, what resources, work projects and things like that. And so the American Farmland Trust, we are a national nonprofit and work on grant funding and donations to sustain our programming, and so we fundraise our directors is Dr. Gabrielle Roesch-McNally. She fundraised for this position and and in partnership with the work that we were already doing in Kentucky, with Kentucky State University and in North Carolina with the Black Family Land Trust. So we already had buy in in these two specific areas of need to be able to do the work that we know needs to happen in general. And knowing that working with women, women own over 40% of farmland in general. They are some are primary producers and specifically in North Carolina, they women are at a higher rate of production than across the nation. So that is a point of like of like achievement one, but also that there are specific needs that we.Knesha:
Definitely definitely Yeah thank you for that that that knowledge and that background. We at AgriSafe we were doing work around women's health and safety and agriculture because we noticed that I believe it was the 2017 USDA census on agriculture there was a huge spike about 27, 30 something percent roughly for an increase in women working or being identified as women producers in ag. So we're very excited to see that number go up. And we hope we hope that trend continues. And it's great that you're offering resources for women in that space so we can have kind of more ownership on the producer lane when it comes to agriculture, because we've had a lot of contributions to egg, but we may not have necessarily been counted. We were usually like my mother is a farmer's wife, so she's like, Oh, I just do the paperwork and this and that and the other. And so they may not be actually counted as producers. So that's really, really great that your project is taking that on. Why do you think it's important to promote diversity in agriculture?Nicole:
Well, we hope that all sectors of jobs, that diversity is included, but specifically in agriculture, because of the history of agriculture in this country and a lot of people have in the news, we we are are. Very forthcoming in some histories, but not in others. And knowing that the transatlantic slave trade specifically brought Africans here to do the labor and specifically stole land from native communities to be able to work that land and so not have a representation for the folks who were brought here or the land stolen is a disservice that we are continuously doing, but that if we don't, there are practices that both Africans and Native people have incorporated to be able to sustain the land, to be able to combat the the destruction of this earth that we see and within climate change currently. And so those are the people who are doing like regenerative agriculture, which is that is a hot topic now, but it always has been. And that diversity includes like best practices of being able to sustain our land, includes being able to identify new and greater ideas for how we want to feed people locally, because that's essential to our our earth and to combat climate change. So I would say, like all of those things, whether that is that is important or not, is we need to do that.Knesha:
Definitely. Thank you. Thank you for that response. Our next question here is in what ways does working in the field of agriculture benefit an individual's health? Oftentimes that AgriSafe we're talking about not only the safety of the workers, but also the health of the workers. So what are some benefits to working in agriculture and how that contributes to the health of the producer?Nicole:
Well as a family consumer science person with that background of food and nutrition, we hope that being in agriculture, being outside, being close to earth is one that is of refreshing, like re-energizing you as a whole person, but also having access to to foods that are local, that will improve your diet health, but also in the fact that that's exercise. That's a lot of hard work and a lot of farmers outlive everybody else. Like the average age of farmers, they tend to live to be 94 or older. And while there are some hazards that come along with with agriculture and with like manual labor and dust particles in and respiratory issues, we hope to combat that by living a healthier life, like being connected to your community, being connected to local food systems, and just being really cognizant of how you are in this world as it connects to the land.Knesha:
Yeah, definitely. Interconnectedness and culture of family, culture of community. Those are all great kind of, I guess, traditional values that are associated with ag. So we we really see kind of that close knit community family connection for individuals and definitely working with the land and being one with the land and knowing the land. It just has a lot of benefits there. In terms of agricultural, health and safety how is the Women for the Land Southeast Project addressing education regarding safety concerns for those those hazards and risks that you were mentioning prior?Nicole:
So with the Women for the Land, we we tried to focus on the wholesale, so including mental health. We we bring in technical providers who address those concerns. We are we know that we are not specifically the experts, that we connect women to those experts. And we really have we talk about a plan for your whole your whole farm. So not just this one woman or this one person on this this plot of land, but how that intertwines with everything else and knowing that women are providers, usually, regardless if they have children or not, they are providing for somebody. They are also an extension of education to someone else. So if we can implement or encourage healthier habits within that person that comes to our learning circle, then we know more than likely that that will extend on to other folks. And so we have a wider reach than just those folks who are there to participate in our programming.Knesha:
Definitely, that's some some research and studies that we've seen as well at AgriSafe is that women were often the mediators, you know, in ag or, you know, kind of helping resolve conflicts and kind of that go between and just that role of nurturers. That's kind of a common role. So, yeah, that's great that when you're you're training the woman, you're extending beyond that individual for her family. And again, that extension and connection to the community. What what impact would you say women in the land would like to make and how can others get involved if they're interested in this project?Nicole:
So I hope it is always our hope that we are making an impact in and in women's lives and the folks that participate in our programming. So specifically that we are an organization that focuses on conservation practices. We hope that women in other folks who are participating in our programming are one like implementing some changes to extend their farming operations. We hope that that folks believe that their asset is an asset that is working for them and for their next generation. And we also hope that we encourage women to be leaders in the space that they occupy and that they are able to in turn, we know that they are there for themselves at that moment, but they are also there to encourage someone else. And specifically in the Southeast, when when I mentioned that we work with predominantly black and other women of color or women of the global majority, however, we see that that we see ourselves in the work that we're doing and that we know that we also can make an impact. That it doesn't have to be big agriculture. It doesn't always have to be white men who are leading and being decision makers, and that what we are doing is important. So you mentioned that your mom was only the one that was doing the books, but somebody had to do those books to keep your operation going because it wasn't your dad. He was outside working and she is as valuable as he was and and keeping your family's operation going. And that's what we hope.Knesha:
Well said. Yes, definitely. And that that concludes our interview. But is there anything else you would like to mention regarding your work or or any passing comments?Nicole:
Actually, I didn't miss it about how to get involved. We have women for the Land programming across the nation, so we have I have a colleague who works in California. We do these circles across the nation. So if you would like to find out more information about Women for the Land Program, you can go to farmland dot org and look up Women for the land. You can also donate, become a member of the organization. You get our email. Sign up for our newsletters and just join a learning circle. If you have the opportunity to do so and see the work in person.
Knesha 13:33 Wonderful. Again, thank you so much for this special episode of Talking Total Farmer Health. We have appreciated all the resource and information and work you're doing to kind of grow leadership of of future women in ag leaders. We're very excited to see what that work turns into. And thank you for joining us for our Black History Month Observance podcast.Nicole:
Thank you for the invitation. I really. Enjoyed it.Knesha:
Thank you so much.