Skip to main content

Applying the feminist agrifood systems theory (fast) to U.S. organic, value-added, and non-organic non-value-added farms


The population of women farm operators continues to increase in the U.S. That growth, however, is mediated by research showing that women in agriculture experience persistent barriers to equality with men. The Feminist Agriculture Food Theory (FAST) developed by Sach et al. (The Rise of Women Farmers and Sustainable Agriculture, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, (Sachs et al., The rise of women farmers and sustainable agriculture, University of Iowa Press, 2016) posits that in the face of these barriers, women farmers in the Northeast are engaging in six strategies to increase their success. These include (1) increasing gender equality on their farms, (2) asserting an identity as a farmer, (3) gaining greater access to resources, (4) shaping new food and farming systems, (5) negotiating roles in agricultural organizations, and (6) forming women-centered farming organizations. While researchers have applied FAST to Michigan, it has not been examined at a national level. In this paper, then, we use the 2017 Census of Agriculture Data to measure how women in agriculture in the U.S. are faring on each aspect of FAST we can measure (strategies 1–5). We compare women to men farmers across these FAST strategies and across three different farm types: Non-Organic Non-Value-Added Farms, Organic Farms, and Value-Added Farms. Our findings suggest for FAST strategies 1 and 2 there is an increase in equity and ability to identify as a farmer for women on organic and value-added farms. However, our findings also suggest that for FAST strategies that require more institutional and structural resources (I.e. strategies 3–5), inequities persist across farm types.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.



Census of agriculture


Community supported agriculture


Feminist agrifood systems theory


United Stated department of agriculture


United States


Non-organic non-value-added


  • Annie’s Project. 2022. About us. Retrieved 4.29.22 from

  • Ball, Jennifer A. 2014. She works hard for the money: Women in Kansas agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values 31: 593–605.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ball, Jennifer A. 2020. Women farmers in developed countries: A literature overview. Agriculture and Human Values 37: 147–160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beach, S.S. 2013. “Tractorettes” or partners? Farmers’ views on women in Kansas farming households. Rural Sociology 78 (2): 210–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Braun, Jennifer, Mary Beckie, and Ken Caine. 2019. “Trust us, we feed this to our kids”: women and public trust in the Canadian agri-food system. Agriculture and Human Values 37: 495.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Constance, Douglas H., Jin Young Choi, and Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland. 2008. Conventionalization, bifurcation, and quality of life: Certified and non-certified organic farmers in Texas. Journal of Rural Social Sciences 23 (1): 9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Constance, Douglas H., Jin Young Choi, and Damian Lara. 2015. Engaging the organic conventionalization debate. In Re-Thinking organic food and farming in a changing world, 161–185. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Croppenstedt, Andre, Markus Goldstein, and Nina Rosas. 2013. Gender and agriculture: Inefficiencies, segregation, and low productivity traps. The World Bank Research Observer 28 (1): 79–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dentzman, Katherine, Ryanne Pilgeram, Paul Lewin, and Kelsey Conley. 2021. Queer farmers in the 2017 US Census of Agriculture. Society & Natural Resources 34 (2): 227–247.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DuPuis, E. Melanie., and Sean Gillon. 2009. Alternative modes of governance: Organic as civic engagement. Agriculture and Human Values 26 (1): 43–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Farm Service Agency. 2022. Minority and women farmers and ranchers. Retrieved 4.29.22 from

  • Ferrell, Ann K. 2012. Doing masculinity: Gendered challenges to replacing burley tobacco in central Kentucky. Agriculture and Human Values 29: 137–149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Galvin, ShailaSeshia. 2011. Nature’s market?: A review of organic certification. Environment and Society 2 (1): 48–67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guthman, Julie. 2002. Commodified meanings, meaningful commodities: Re–thinking production–consumption links through the organic system of provision. Sociologia Ruralis 42 (4): 295–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, Alan, and Veronika Mogyorody. 2007. Organic farming, gender, and the labor process. Rural Sociology 72 (2): 289–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Horst, Megan, and Amy Marion. 2018. Racial, ethnic and gender inequalities in farmland ownership and farming in the U.S. Agriculture and Human Values 36: 1–6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leslie, Isaac Sohn. 2017. Queer farmers: Sexuality and the transition to sustainable agriculture. Rural Sociology 82 (4): 747–771.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Monica, White. 2012. Sisters of the soil: Urban gardening as resistance in Detroit. Race/Ethnicity Multidisciplinary Global Contexts 5 (1): 13–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peter, Gregory, Michael Mayerfield Bell, Susan Jarnagin, and Donna Bauer. 2000. Coming back across the fence: Masculinity and the transition to sustainable agriculture. Rural Sociology 65 (2): 215–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilgeram, Ryanne. 2011. “The only thing that isn’t sustainable…is the farmer”: Social sustainability and the politics of class among Pacific Northwest farmers engaged in sustainable farming. Rural Sociology 76 (3): 375–393.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilgeram, Ryanne. 2019. “How much does property cost up there?”: Exploring the relationship between women, sustainable farming, and rural gentrification in the US. Society & Natural Resources 32 (8): 911–927.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilgeram, Ryanne, and Bryan Amos. 2015. Beyond “inherit it or marry it”: Exploring how women engaged in sustainable agriculture access farmland. Rural Sociology 80 (1): 16–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilgeram, Ryanne, Katherine Dentzman, Paul Lewin, and Kelsey Conley. 2020. How the USDA changed the way women farmers are counted in the census of agriculture. Choices 35 (1): 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pilgeram, Ryanne, Katherine Dentzman, and Paul Lewin. 2022. Women, race and place in US agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values 39: 1341–1355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pini, Barbara. 2005. Farm women: Driving tractors and negotiating gender. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 13 (1): 1–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sachs, Carolyn, Mary Barbercheck, Kathryn Braiser, Nancy Ellen Kiernan, and Anna Rachel Terman. 2016. The rise of women farmers and sustainable agriculture. University of Iowa Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Sage, Jeremy L., and Jessica R. Goldberger. 2012. Decisions to direct market: Geographic influences on conventions in organic production. Applied Geography 34: 57–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saugeres, Lise. 2002. Of tractors and men: Masculinity, technology, and power in a French farming community. Sociologia Ruralis 42 (2): 143–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sumner, Jennifer, and Sophie Llewelyn. 2011. Organic solutions? Gender and organic farming in the age of industrial agriculture. Capitalism Nature Socialism 22 (1): 100–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sustainable agriculture research and education. 2018. Our farms, our future podcast series: women in agriculture. Retrieved 4.29.2 from

  • Trauger, Amy. 2004. ‘Because they can do the work’: Women farmers in sustainable agriculture in Pennsylvania, USA. Gender, Place & Culture 11 (2): 289–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • United States department of agriculture national agricultural statistics service. 2022. Census of agriculture. Retrieved 5.9.22 from

  • White, Monica. 2018. Freedom farmers: Agricultural resistance and the Black freedom movement. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press Books.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wright, Wynne, and Amexis Annes. 2019. fasting in the mid-west? A theoretical assessment of ‘feminist Agrifoods systems theory”. Agriculture and Human Values.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wypler, Jaclyn. 2019. Lesbian and queer sustainable farmer networks in the Midwest. Society & Natural Resources 32 (8): 947–964.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Young, Linda J., and Barbara R. Rater. 2022. The farm producer survey: Unit and item nonresponse. RDD Research Report Number RDD-22-01. National Agricultural Statistics Service, Research and Development Division, Washington, DC. Available at:,_Presentations_and_Conferences/reports/Farm_Producer_Survey_Initial_Resultsnew_07_22_2022.pdf

Download references


This work is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant no. 2019-68006-29325/project accession no. 1018649 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. We would also like to acknowledge the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, with whom we worked to access Census of Agriculture micro-level data.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katherine Dentzman.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dentzman, K., Pilgeram, R. & Wilson, F. Applying the feminist agrifood systems theory (fast) to U.S. organic, value-added, and non-organic non-value-added farms. Agric Hum Values (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Feminist agrifood systems theory: FAST
  • Quantitative analysis
  • U.S. census of agriculture
  • Women in agriculture