THE PERFORMANCE OF WOMEN’S GENDER IDENTITY IN THE
CONTEXT OF AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES :
AN INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON 1
Associate Professor of Sociology,
Department of Community, Agriculture,
Recreation and Resource Studies,
Michigan State University, USA
Enseignant Chercheur en Sociologie,
Département de Sciences Sociales,
Environnement et Biodiversité, INP-
EI Purpan, University de Toulouse,
Professor of Sociology, Department of
Sociology and Rural Studies, South
Dakota State University, USA
LARKINS JACQUES, Michelle
Doctoral Student, Department of
Community, Agriculture, Recreation
and Resource Studies, Michigan
State University, USA
In the globalized era, both farming and farmers have changed, which
necessitates an equivalent change in the study of new farmers and new farming
practices. With this presentation, we survey recent studies on modern agriculture,
with particular attention to gender (i.e., new farmers) and gender performativity
(i.e., new practices). The main objective of our work is to ask: how are identities
constructed and performed in the context of current agricultural practices?
Specific to the role of women in French and American agriculture we ask: what
women hold agricultural ownership of land and/or partnership in collective farm
activity? Are there patterns by class, ethnicity? Is women's ownership indicative of
local status and family status? Are new women farmers emerging in the population?
Are they distinguished from existing women in agriculture either in farmer identity
formation, production activity and/or in ownership and access to resources?
1 Corresponding author, Alexis Annes, email@example.com
Key words: Women farmer, Gender performativity, Rurality and Globalization,
International Comparative Research
In this article 2 , we describe our research proposal focusing on women and
agriculture in France and in the United States. Recent agricultural censuses, both
in France and in the United States, stress the growing involvement of women in
agriculture in general and of women as primary farm operator or co-operator.
Interestingly, in both countries, similar trends occur. Women farmer tend to be
more involved in diversified and entrepreneurial activities. These activities require
new skills and competences. Recently, Brandth and Haugen (2010) suggested that
these activities affect the performance of gender relationships, power and
identities. In our research project, we want to explore further this hypothesis by
exploring it in the French and the US context. We ask: how are gender identities
constructed and performed in the context of current agricultural practices,
especially entrepreneurial activities? Following Brandth and Haugen’s work (2010),
by exploring gender’s construction and performances, we aim at unveiling possible
trend in gender equality. We also want to assess how women farmers, because of
their shared experience as a social group, might develop specific strategies to
sustain their agricultural practices in the context of agricultural crisis. In this
research project, we want to question women’s role in agriculture using standpoint
theory in order to bring women’s knowledge, experience, and viewpoint to the
First, we briefly present current trends regarding women’s involvement in
agriculture based on recent agricultural censuses. Second, we turn to the social
sciences literature which has emerged for the past few decades and which has
explored in many ways (identity, representations, and practices) the evolving role
of women in American and French rural space. Third, we present and the stress the
relevance of standpoint theory and gender performance theory to answer hour
2 This article is based on an international research project which started in June 2012. Researchers involved in
this project received a grant Soutien à la Mobilité Internationale granted by the Institut National Polytechnique
de Toulouse (INP Toulouse), a branch of the University of Toulouse system.
esearch questions. Last, we briefly discuss the methodology we choose to
Women in Agriculture: Data from Ag Census
In France, the number of women involved in agriculture has been increasing
for the past several decades. The latest agricultural census implemented in 2010
shows that more of than ¼ of farms’ primary operator or co-operator are women
compared to only 8% in 1970 (Agreste, 2012). This increase is partly due to the
evolution of statuses for women in agriculture. In the 1999’s Ag. Framework Law
the status of “conjoint collaborateurs” (co-operators) was created. It allowed
women who, until then, were working without status on the farm to gain an official
one; the majority of women who became recognized as primary operator or cooperator
had already been working on the farm for several years before.
Consequently, a little over 60% of women primary operators or co-operators are
over 50 years old and the average age of women operators or co-operators is 53.2
when the one of men is 49.2. However, these data do not mean that young women
are not getting more involved in agriculture than in the past. In 2010, in 2010, 945
women less than 40 years old became farmers, which represents 24% of new
farmers in that age group (Agreste, 2012).
When comparing the structures of farms run exclusively by women,
differences appear. Women farmers are more likely to sell their production locally
(farmers market, on-farm sale, etc.) and to be more diversified. They also tend to
become farmers later, after receiving a non-agriculture related degree and after
having worked as employees in other domains. Also, young female farmers are
more likely to have a higher education degree than their male counterpart. In
2010, 44.2% of women farmers less than 40 have a higher education degree, when
only 32.1% of men farmers have one (Agreste, 2012).
In the United States, two trends in agriculture are impacting on the role of
women. First, the industrialization of agriculture has led to the transformation of
farm structures, the increase of inputs and costs, as well as changes in agricultural
practices and work habits. Second, agriculture is experiencing changes in gender
roles. As in France, women are moving from the status of wife to the status of
farmer (primary operator) and from the status of helper to the status of owner.
The first trend (industrialization of agriculture) leads to a dichotomy between
family farms, giving more and new opportunities for smaller and more specialized
structures. The second trend increases opportunities for women in the agricultural
sector, especially in the case of father/daughter succession (something which was
rare until recently).
In 2002, women primary operators were on average 56.7 years old, slightly
above men. Further, for 68% of women farmers, only 25% of the annual income of
their household comes from their agricultural activity. In fact, most of them have
additional off-farm employment or income-generating ventures. The vast majority
of women farmers are White and own their land (84% are owner, 11% are co-owner,
and 5% rent their land). They also tend to operate smaller (15% operate farms less
than 4.5 ha, 25% less than 24.5 ha, 30% less than 89.5 ha, 13% less than 249.5 ha,
and 7% more than 250 ha) smaller and more specialized farms than men. Last,
women’s share of farms has been increasing (it went from less than 6% in 1978 to
almost 12% in 2002).
Overall, the general tendency shows an increasing involvement of women in
agriculture. The average age of women farmers is decreasing slowly and the nature
of women’s involvement is changing with a reorientation toward animal production
Women and Agriculture in Developed Countries: State of the Art
Women all over the world have played significant roles in agriculture (Sachs
and Alston, 2010) and these two countries are no exception. While women’s
agricultural labor is often associated with the developing world, it would be a
mistake to conclude that American and French women are not leaving their imprint
on agriculture production, processing, distributing, marketing, consumption as well
as the culture of agriculture. In concert with a broader intellectual movement to
explore history from the position of marginalized voices, social historians and
sociologists began in the 1970s and 1980s to make women’s contributions to
farming visible overwhelmingly with the use of qualitative methods (Barthez, 1982;
Fink, 1992; Haney, 1983; Osterud,1991; Rosenfeld, 1992; Sachs, 1983).
In their analysis of scholarship (mainly Anglo-Saxon) during this period, Allen
and Sachs (2007) present three domains that define women’s relationship to food –
the material, socio-cultural and corporeal. Much of this early work focused on the
material realm often through the lens of the gendered division of farm and
household labor (Bokemeier and Garkovich, 1987; Haney, 1983; Sachs, 1983;
Whatmore, 1991) whereby women were seen to contribute to the farm through
direct production activities and in activity often subordinated as secondary or
supportive of the primary, male farmer. Other literature focused on the sociocultural
realm through issues of farm and rural women’s identity construction
(Hassanein, 1999; Naples, 1994). For instance, women frequently downplayed their
contributions and eschewed the label of farmer, opting instead to see themselves
as “helpers” to the primary male operator. As women increasingly left the farm in
the 1970s and found employment in local villages and towns, the sociological
scholarship likewise turned toward the question of women’s economic contribution
on subsidizing farm activity (Bokemeier and Garkovich, 1985; Oberhauser, 2002;
Sachs, 1983). More recently, scholars have explored the question of women and
land tenure, probing how women access land in patriarchal cultures as well as how
they diverge from men in their management of land (Friedmann, 1986; U.S. Census
of Agriculture, 2002).
Sachs and Alston (2010) argue that much of the scholarship on women and
agriculture has privileged the farm as the central focus and neglected women’s
roles in other domains of the agrifood system. Scholarship in the 1980s and 1990s,
while continuing to focus on the material realm, began to draw our attention away
from the farm as the center of agriculture activity and positioned the farm and its
operators in a broader system of productive and consumptive action. Often
referred to as value chains or commodity systems, this integrative approach to
agriculture and food allows us to more fully see patterns of control and
vulnerability that may be rooted in longstanding patterns of tradition or may
emanate from far afield (Brandt, 1996; Dolan, 2004). The advance of neo-liberal
globalization of markets and economies has also helped to shed light on the
complexity of women’s experience in a global agrifood system (Allen and Sachs,
The first decade of the twentieth-first century has also ushered in a new set
of questions that explores women’s entrepreneurialism in the agrifood system.
This is a subject to which we position our current study. This turn to the
entrepreneurial is predominately rooted in the rise of ‘alternative’ agriculture
organized around a more holistic approach to production which is mindful of issues
of farm scale, gender appropriate technologies, quality of life and spirituality
issues (Chiappe and Flora, 1998). A growing recognition of women as on-farm
entrepreneurs stems from the growth in women’s leadership in redefining the farm
as a public space for education, entertainment, and respite. Research reports that
women may find their participation in farm tourism as empowering, yet traditional
norms indicative of heterosexual couple relations remain unchanged (Brandth and
To this growing inquiry we must acknowledge a similarly strong body of
scholarship that comes out of a culture or food studies tradition that explores the
efforts of women to revive cultural traditions and to forge identities in the
household and community through food. These efforts also serve, however, to
question and create class positions. (Lewin, 1943; DeVault, 1991). A systems
approach allows us to link the productive and consumptive elements of agriculture
and food and see their embeddedness and also their ability to shape and inform
each other. We now recognize that women have imprinted on the agrifood system
through culinary imaginaries in the home, household consumption patterns on
behalf of the family, authorship of cookbooks, and generally as cultural authorities
on food and foodways (Allen and Sachs, 2997; Bentley, 1998; Inness, 2006; Kasdan,
1956; Ransom and Wright, 2012).
Lastly, we see a turn to the question of sustainability as scholars explore
how women’s social location, identity, and experiences with inequality affect the
transition to a sustainable agrifood system. Some of this work has identified the
differential relations women have with nature and motivations for sustainable
agrifood system work (Chiappe and Flora, 1998). Trauger (2004) has explored the
structural conduciveness of sustainable agriculture that invite women, rather than
the exclusionary practices of conventional agriculture that closes off women’s
participation. Still, others fear sustainable agriculture practices may be little more
than illusionary, as they struggle to transform social systems that perpetuate
inequality (Hall and Mogyorody; 2007; Meares, 1997; Pilgeram, 2011; Sachs, 2007;
Trauger and Sachs, 2006). No doubt, the future of scholarship devoted to women
in agriculture and food systems will continue to confront the contradictions and
struggle women experience.
In this context, we want to position our work in the study on women’s
entrepreneurship within the context of family farm, which remain the dominant
organization of agriculture in France and in the United States. As mentioned in the
introduction, we want to explore if these entrepreneurial activities create spaces
for renegotiating traditional gender relationships, power, and identities. To
contextualize this question, we now turn to more specific studies focusing on rural
women in the United States and in France. First, we present the specificities of the
rural context in which agricultural activities occur in France and in the United
Characteristics in which agriculture now occurs
The traditional agricultural practices of many French and American farmers
are being questioned and modified as their role and the status of agricultural
production changes in these two countries. In France and the United States,
farmers’ agricultural practices are being shaped by two simultaneous and
somewhat contradictory factors: (1) farmers face high structural constraints and
are constantly surrounded by rhetoric of economic efficiency (2) farmers must take
into account the limited nature of the environmental resources.
Further, French and U.S. rural spaces are undergoing similar
transformations, albeit to different degrees between and within each country.
Despite intra and inter country scalar differences, however, both constitute
postindustrial societies where rural spaces can no longer be reduced to the location
of agricultural production. Rural spaces and rural populations have undergone
significant transformations (Cloke, 2007) and these recent demographic, social and
economic changes have dramatically affected the organization of the French and
US countryside. In addition to the traditional agricultural “function” of rural spaces
in these countries, other “functions” have emerged. Rural spaces are becoming
popular residential and recreational destinations, and integral to biodiversity
conservation efforts. Thus in many instances farmers may be forced to modify their
agricultural practices based on the expectations and practices of other/new users
of rural spaces.
As a result of these changing social, cultural, economic and environmental
expectations of agriculture, farmers have in many instances been forced to
question their practices and potentially not only the way they work and interact
with others, but also their conception of self. Recent studies have suggested that
some farmers’ have experienced difficulty adopting the new practices imposed by
these expectations, and that in some instances this struggle for survival is
perceived to be a struggle to maintain their identity (Coldwell, 2010; Trauger,
2004). These studies deconstructed how agricultural practices and identity
construction shape and are shaped by one another. Improving our understanding of
farmers’ identity and practices provides opportunities for new conceptualization of
those practices and the impact of change on farm retention and transfer.
However, despite these changes, rural spaces both in France and the United
States remain spaces where patriarchy and masculinity are still prevalent. Studies
in the United States (Sachs and Allen, 2007) as well as in France (Saugeres, 2002)
stressed this persisting patriarchal and masculine culture where the main
institutions and social organizations are dominated by men. This is particularly true
in agriculture, where leaders of agricultural organizations (such as unions,
cooperatives, extension services, etc.) are, if not exclusively, largely men. In
addition, French and American rural spaces remain highly hetero-normative spaces
emphasizing nuclear (heterosexual) family lives and stereotypical gender roles and
interactions which remain unquestioned (Little, 2003; Little and Panelli, 2007). As
shown by Annes and Redlin (2012), a strong heterosexual matrix still characterizes
these rural spaces and affects its inhabitants in their presentation of self.
Despite this context--patriarchal and masculine, as well as heteronormative-
-the number of women involved in agriculture has been increasing, but, as noted by
Brandth and Haugen (2010, 426), if: “women have assumed new positions and
engaged in new practices, (…) power relations have remained much the same, and
women's work continues to hold low status in accordance with the discourses and
ideologies of appropriate gender behavior in family farming.” In this research
project, we want to explore if emerging entrepreneurial activities developed in the
context of family farms allow French and US women to reach more gender equity.
We now turn to the specific literature focusing on rural women in France and
in the United States.
Rural Women: Representations and Practices
Despite scholarship that argues rural identities are shaped by a variety of
structural and cultural factors (Cloke, 2006) and that these identities also differ
within locational contexts (Sachs, 1985; Tickameyer and Henderson, 2003), the
ideal of the country woman is a popular normative construct. Idealized as the
“good wife” (Liepens, 1998), she is a caretaker, involved in the community,
engaged in reproductive farm and household work, and a staunch supporter of the
family farm (Little, 1997). These normative identities may be both reproduced and
maintained by rural women themselves (Little, 2006). Thus as rural communities
are challenged through economic restructuring, agricultural policy shifts, and rates
of in and out migration (Salomon, 1992), some aspects of gender roles may
continue to be static and traditional. Indeed, despite the increasing importance of
women’s contribution to household incomes from off-farm work, rural cultural
expectations continue to embody traditional ideas of wifehood and child rearing
(Shortall, 2002; Little and Panelli, 2003).
American Farm Women
Studies of farm women and their labors began as early as the 1920’s (Sachs,
1985). Traditionally reflected in these studies is an analysis of farm work versus
domestic work, and sometimes the interaction between the two (Ross, 1985). For
example, Fassinger and Schwarzweller (1980) found that the number of hours of
work that wives did on the farm, increased with farm size; while the number of
hours of domestic work remained constant. Thus, in keeping with more
contemporary findings, the farm and the family are placed above personal time or
needs (Heather et. al., 2005). The common unit of analysis for these studies is the
family farm, and it is argued that some of the persistent gendered divisions of
labor of farm households come from its patriarchal traditions (Brandth, 2002;
Sachs, 1985). Male perspectives and knowledge continue to dominate most
conventional agricultural discourses, despite the realization that many family farms
could not have survived without the labor (paid and unpaid) of farm women (Sachs,
Bokemeier and Garkovich (1987), in their study of farm women, suggested
that women who were involved in more egalitarian farm structures where they
participated in operations and decision making expressed self-identities that
reflected a high sense of farm involvement. In contrast, women who identified
themselves as homemakers on the farm felt they were less involved. Deference to
her husband’s knowledge and her self- identification as a farm ‘wife’ suggests the
importance placed on maintaining the role of wife-hood by some women in
traditional rural communities (Little and Panelli 2003). Further in locating her role
outside of farm production, she reflects a self-identity as a supporter of the farm,
rather than involved in its operation (Bokemeier and Garkovich, 1987; Shortall,
2002). These results are echoed in Grace’s 1998 study which found that women
who took part in management/production activity were more likely to identify as
farmers or graziers and not as homemakers. Similarly, Brandth (1994) found that
Norwegian women who identified as women farmers resisted homemaker discourses
and labels associated with traditional gender norms. While these women still
engaged in housework chores, their agricultural labor was primary.
Some farm women who must work off the farm to support their families
acknowledge the gendered hardship (Heather et.al, 2005) but are reluctant to
ascribe any feminist notions to the nature of their lives. In keeping with the
importance of community cohesiveness, these women may reject feminist
arguments to avoid stigmatism within their rural communities and the perceived
attack on nuclear family values in feminist discourses (Grace and Lennie, 1998). At
the same time, these women concede that working off the farm in paid
employment could provide a sense of empowerment and time for self which they
cannot have when working on the farm full time. However, it remains clear that
the income derived from their off-farm endeavors is for the maintenance of the
farm, and the keeping of their families (Shortall, 2002, Heather et. al., 2005).
Indeed, despite the fact that their earnings may outpace that of the farm, farm
women may still speak of the farm as the primary economic occupation of the
family (Shortall, 2002). While some male farmers acknowledge the financial
contribution of their wives, it has not necessarily led to any transfer or
renegotiation of her full time domestic responsibilities (Shortall, 2002).What
connects these experiences is the expectation that whether the woman chose to
work outside the home or not, her economic life was subsumed by the traditional
responsibilities of wifehood (Little and Panelli, 2003). However, this should not be
read as victimhood or passivity; as Oldrup (1999) argues, farm women may
acknowledge their hardship in constructing an identity as a farm wife or farm
woman. However, they are still actively engaging in daily practices of identity
negotiation and may work toward incremental changes in expectations or norms.
French Farm women
In the French countryside, farming is still largely defined as a masculine
space, associated with technical expertise and strength (Sagueres, 2002a). The
contributions of women’s work is marginalized or discounted via a hierarchical
construction of masculine and feminine bodily abilities. Women who cross the
gender boundary and identify as farmers independent of a male guardian are often
ostracized and desexualized (Trauger et al., 2008, Sagueres, 2002a) as they defy
the traditional conception of women lacking the affinity and capabilities to work
the land and operate agricultural machinery. Women who exercise the identity of
the agricultrice (female farmer) operate outside the rural French gender norms of
women as “wives” or “sexual objects” (Saugeres, 2002a). Thus in the market or
other social interactions, these women are ridiculed as outsiders— ‘they cannot be
taken seriously’ (Sagueres, 2002a). It is men who are conceptualized as the natural
farmer, and this identity is strongly rooted in an idealization of traditional paysan
practices. In the paysan tradition, farmers are intimately engaged with the land,
leading a simple lifestyle outside of modern concerns for growth or capital.
Interestingly, this construction also resists industrialization/mechanization,
suggesting a divergence in French rural masculinities related to
industrialization/mechanization popularized in other western discourses.
In interviews with rural French men and women living/working on farms,
respondents of both genders indicated that women were best suited to tending of
livestock— a role that is socially constructed as less demanding, menial, and
secondary to farm survival (Sagueres, 2002b). All primary and essential production
roles were ascribed to male farmers. Single, female farmers were described as
unnatural, and existing outside French conceptions of femininity and
heterosexuality. Thus while farm men may exercise the right to self-definition,
farm women must concede to marginal positions or exist outside the community.
Further, this hegemonic definition of masculinity delegitimizes the agricultural
work of French women, and maintains/reproduces disparate gender relations
through both body (strength) and mind (affinity for the land). Further local
investigation of this persistent and unequal set of gender relations may increase
understanding of the relationship between self-identification, and agricultural
Theoretical Approach: Standpoint theory and Gender performativity
Two theoretical approaches will be used to complete this research project.
First we will implement standpoint theory and standpoint methodology to question
women’s role in agriculture. We choose this approach as it allows developing a
sociological understanding of gender relations, power and identity which will be
rooted into women’s experience. Second, as we want to focus on the how gender
might be redefined in the context of entrepreneurial activities, we will use a
performativity theory based on the work of Zimmerman and West (1987) and Butler
Standpoint theory focuses on examining social phenomena from the
perspective and experience of a subordinated group (Collins, 1990). Arising from
the work of feminist sociologists, standpoint theory has evolved as a recognized
theoretical framework for understanding the positionality of women in society and
their interpretation of their roles, barriers, challenges and life chances as women
(Collins, 1990, Harding, 1993; Smith, 1990). Initially, it was formulated in the
context of Marxist politics. Adopting this materialist perspective, it asserts the
existence of an underlying material reality structuring our social world (Herkman,
1997). In other words, material life shapes our subjective perception of the world
and how we experience it. Accounting for the social positioning of social agents,
the “situatedness of the knowing subjects,” stands for an essential claim of
feminist standpoint theory (Stoelzler and Yuval-Davis, 2002:315). Additionally,
standpoint theorists argued that sociological thought had been based on and built
up within the male social universe. It gave to sociology an unquestioned
androcentric mode of thought in which women’s perspective had been excluded.
Forced to view themselves not as subjects, but as the “other,” women had been
marginalized (Smith, 1990). Therefore, feminist standpoint theory provides a mode
of thought rooted in women’s experience.
Since the development of this theoretical perspective in the 1970s, various
but interrelated discourses have emerged. However, it is possible to identify
similarities in these discourses. First, the unit of analysis of this theory is the
group. In fact, as noted by Collins (1997), a standpoint results from a historically
shared, group-based experience. Here, a group refers to a social collectivity with
history and shared experiences allowing for the development of a common
knowledge of social relations.
Second, the standpoint of a group stems from a shared location in the social
landscape and in relation to power (Collins, 1997). However, as argued by all
feminist standpoint theorists, a standpoint should not be mistaken with a simple
“viewpoint.” In fact, they suggest that there are no automatic correlations
between social location and standpoint (i.e. “situated knowledge”). A standpoint
does emerge from the “simple” location of an individual in the social landscape. In
other words, there are no essentialist underpinning associated with this concept
(Herkman, 1997; Smith, 1990). On the contrary, a standpoint is socially constructed
and grounded in actual social practices. These practices are given and transmitted
from the past and have emerged from long standing patterns of discrimination.
Grounded in social practices (i.e. material reality), a standpoint gives an
oppressed group (a group whose knowledge and perspective has not been given any
credit, contrary to the discourses of dominant groups which has come to define
reality) a specific vision and interpretation of social reality. By focusing on the
situated knowledge of this oppressed group, standpoint theory can grasp and bring
to the forefront this specific understanding of the social world.
Despite the origination of the standpoint theoretical framework, its use does
not require a feminist perspective on the part of either researchers or subjects.
Rather, it focuses the investigation on the knowledge and lived experience of a
particular social group, in this case French and American women engaged in
Within the theoretical framework of performativity, gender is
conceptualized as a perpetual accomplishment, not as the expression of any
essential nature. Rather, gender stands for the expression of a dynamic which is
not something we are, but something we do. In other words, it is a performance
which is achieved through “interactions, bodily displays and work practices” (West
and Zimmerman, 1987).
This performance occurs within specific “normative conceptions of men and
women” (Deutsch, 2007) influenced by compulsory heterosexuality (Butler, 1990)
or particular context and institutional norms (West and Zimmerman, 1987). During
these performances, men and women alike are aware that they will be judged
according to these “normative conceptions” which might vary from one context to
another. By following these conceptions, men and women contribute to reinforce
them and to make gender appear stable over time.
In this study, we want to question gender performance within the context of
changing American and French rural spaces, as well as in the context of
entrepreneurial agricultural activities such as agritourism.
Methodology: Qualitative Methodology
This research project is designed to understand, from women’s standpoint,
how gender identities are constructed and performed in the context of current
agricultural practices, especially entrepreneurial activities. Because gender
performances are socially constructed, exist in people’s consciousness, and are
expressed through everyday practices, it is methodologically relevant to study
them from the subjective point of view of those who live within them (Sasson-Levy,
2002). Thus, the project will be informed by qualitative research methodology
which is therefore the methodology best able to provide a sociological
understanding of the construction of gender identity within family farms with
entrepreneurial activities. In addition, the main goal of qualitative interviewing is
to allow interpretation of participants’ discourse, “to understand the meaning of
respondents’ experiences and life words” (Warren, 2002:84).
We propose a comparative research design. We focus this research on the
knowledge and lived experience of women in agriculture in the Midwest of the
United States (including two locations—Michigan and South Dakota) and in France
(the Midi-Pyrénées Region). In both cases, in-depth interviews will be conducted.
They give a rich documentation of personal experience and subjectivity as well as
an in-depth understanding of social, cultural, and historical structures shaping this
personal experience over the life course. Because one major research objective of
this study is to investigate and understand the performance of gender identity in
the process of entrepreneurial activities in family farms as well as to assess the
impact of social and cultural contexts (for example American rural versus French
rural), this kind of interviewing is the most suitable.
Contact of research populations will be made through researcher association
with existing farm organizations, outreach services from affiliated universities, and
social networks among participants.
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