Raising Crops, Raising Voices
SYMPOSIUM FOUNDER BRINGS WOMEN FARMERS INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
“One of the most heartening experiences happens in between sessions,” Caitlin Hachmyer says of the annual symposium, Foundations and the Future: Women’s Leadership in the Food Movement, she launched in 2016, “or in moments when folks are asked to turn to their neighbors for a bit of engagement. …The space is abuzz with voices. There is no silence; people are inspired and energy feels like it is bubbling over.”
Caitlin “Caiti” Hachmyer, 34, is herself a farmer. On most Sundays, you can find her at her beautifully appointed Red H Farm stall at the Sebastopol farmers’ market. A chalkboard lists the day’s selections and prices, with little flower bouquets tucked here and there among the farm’s diverse harvest. She sells to local restaurants and services wholesale accounts, as well.
Caiti founded her farm in 2009, on two pieces of land in southern Sebastopol. She grew up on what is now the 1.25-acre home farm, where her parents still live. The farm’s name is inspired by her early years on the land.
“As I child,” she reminisces, “I was a basketball player. In the front yard a telephone pole had a basketball hoop and behind the hoop, there was a big red ‘H.’ While the hoop is gone, the backboard and the H are still there.”
Today, she uses to pole to grow hops. Red-tailed hawks swoop and twirl overhead as she tends the land, just as their ancestors did as the young Caiti frolicked in these same fields and shot baskets into that hoop.
The farm’s second property is nearby, 1.3 acres at the Permaculture Skills Center on Highway 116 in Sebastopol. This parcel also serves as a demonstration farm and a living classroom where students study agro-ecological farming practices. The annual symposium is held here each fall, in the midst of abundant fecund beauty unseen by the commuters and tourists who zip by on their way to and from Highway 101.
In 2015, Caiti received the Nancy Skall Memorial Scholarship, funds donated at local farmers’ markets to honor the beloved founder of Healdsburg’s agricultural jewel, Middleton Farm. The infusion of cash allowed Caiti to convert Red H Farm to a no-till operation in a single season instead of the several seasons it would have taken without the scholarship.
Caiti’s farming is informed by her studies, as well as her passion. She has an undergraduate degree in anthropology and conservation resources studies from UC Berkeley and a graduate degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tuft s University in Massachusetts. She conducts research and writes for the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First, is a member of Sonoma County Food Systems Alliance, serves on the advisory board of Petaluma Bounty and teaches at Sonoma State University. She has published on a wide range of topics that new farmers face in today’s world.
The symposium represents a convergence of her work, her expertise, her connections and her inspiration.
“I want to create a space that brings in all of the incredible voices and perspectives from across the food moment,” Caiti says, “[and] I want to be an ally of all women, including women of color and queer women. I want to create a space for their stories and I seek a deeper collaboration.”
After working in the food movement more than a decade—not only as a farmer, but also as an activist, a teacher and a scholar— Caiti says that she came to realize that while women grow half of the world’s food, and the number of women farmers in the United States is on the rise, their voices are still eclipsed by men. They are the boots-on-the ground of the food movement, a reality that is not reflected on the national or the world stage.
“The prevailing voices representing this movement are most often male,” Caiti says, “whether as heads of organizations, journalists whose voices rise above all others, or as farmers who stand as national figureheads for sustainable, regenerative agriculture. These male voices are carried high and above the voices of women doing so much of the work behind the scenes on the ground. I wanted to create a space where the depth and breadth of work done by women was daylighted, exposed and rejoiced.”
And thus, the symposium was born, giving rise to a chorus of articulate, diverse voices from a diminutive farm in the heart of wine country.
2018 FOUNDATIONS AND THE FUTURE:
WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP IN THE FOOD MOVEMENT—
OCTOBER 13, 2018
The one-day gathering will include presentations and panel discussions, as well as good food (naturally) and conclude with a show featuring women artists working at the intersection of food and art.
Tentative theme is global women, highlighting stories of women working around the world and of international voices within the United States.
Sponsors are being sought for the symposium, as well as for the development of written materials, including articles and, perhaps, a book that will allow these unique and vital voices to reach a broader audience.
Presented by Red H Farm, at the Permaculture Skills Center in Sebastopol.