When Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture announced its Exchange Fellows in April, the list featured a predictable roster of professions: writers, editors, entrepreneurs, and chefs, some with farming backgrounds, all focused on food-system change. Here’s what wasn’t expected: All nine fellows for 2018 are women.
Like last year’s inaugural group, which included men and women, the fellows will spend three weeks at Stone Barns this month as part of the six-month program, learning about the nonprofit’s approach to farming and soil health, meeting with experts, sharing ideas, and discussing food waste and farm-driven cuisine. “The idea is to bring together a group of folks from different disciplines to facilitate a conversation about how we might accelerate food-system change, which is our mission at Stone Barns,” says director of programs Sara Elliott.
“We’re certainly in a cultural moment when women’s voices are being heard in ways they haven’t been heard before.”
Women are an important part of that. “As in almost every sector, women are underrepresented in leadership,” explains Elliott, adding that women represent about 30 percent of farmers and 40 percent of farm operators nationally, according to the 2012 census. “But they’re overrepresented in sustainable agriculture and sustainable food businesses. We thought we had an opportunity to have an outsized influence on change by focusing on the people who are already focused on [these ideas].”
With the fellowship program, Stone Barns hopes to build an alumni network of like-minded ambassadors to inspire future projects and collaborations. “We’re certainly in a cultural moment when women’s voices are being heard in ways they haven’t been heard before,” says Elliott. “I think that’s a really powerful thing.”