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. 2017;22(1):56-65.
doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2016.1251368.

"When This Breaks Down, It's Black Gold": Race and Gender in Agricultural Health and Safety


"When This Breaks Down, It's Black Gold": Race and Gender in Agricultural Health and Safety

Kathrine Lynn Barnes et al. J Agromedicine. .


Farmers are growing older, and fewer new agriculturists are rising to take their place. Concurrently, women and minorities are entering agriculture at an increasing rate. These rates are particularly curious viewed in light of the racialized and gendered nature of agriculture. Slavery and agriculture share strong historical roots, with many male slaves performing agricultural labor. So then, why would African American women choose to engage in agriculture in any form? Participant observation and in-depth interviews with a group of African American women urban farmers in the southeastern United States were asked this question. Interviews with seven such women revealed their perception of self-sustainable small-scale agriculture as a departure from, not return to, slavery. The women drew metaphors between the Earth and femininity, believing their work to be uniquely feminine. Production of food for consumption and trade provides a source for community and healthy food amid urban poverty and the plight of food deserts. These data encourage agricultural health and safety professionals and researchers to tackle the health-promoting nature of such work, with the entrée of anthropology and other social sciences into the field. In many ways, these women portrayed small-scale food cultivation as an important component of, rather than a threat to, health and safety. Indeed, they viewed such labor as wholly health promoting. Their strong social connections provide a potential means for community-led dissemination of any relevant health and safety information.

Keywords: Gender; health; race; safety; urban agriculture.

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