This is the third in a series of posts reflecting on our experiences at the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Conference in Cincinnati June 19-22.One of the high points of the conference was meeting up with an old acquaintance, Dr. Jacquelyn Zita, distinguished professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota, who used to be an assistant professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, some years (maybe best not to be too precise about how many) back.
Of particular and ongoing interest was her current preoccupation — organic farming!
OK, that was unexpected.
But it probably shouldn’t have been. Jacquelyn Zita is convinced, and convincing, that one of the most significant justice issues of our day, and one of the places people — she — need to be doing work, is sustainable agriculture, dealing with issues of the equitable disposal of toxic waste, organizing for food production on a human scale, and the like. She and some like-minded others have launched the Women’s Environmental Institute at Amador Hill, and are busy (VERY busy) making it into a thriving center for education in and implementation of the just, sustainable agricultural practices that are needed in our world, as well as more independent research to find out what really is needed, and what really works.
Judging from the website, the Women’s Environmental Institute at Amador Hill is an amazing place. Zita herself noted that it’s a working farm, which has successfully passed its organic certification thanks to its meticulous records of how plants have been handled from planting through packaging for human consumption. That impressed me. The website tells a much larger story: of workshops, educational activities, research, publications, all organized around the center’s mission: “create and share knowledge about environmental issues and policies relevant to women, children and identified communities especially affected by environmental injustices; to promote organic and sustainable agriculture skill building and ecological awareness; and to promote activism that influences public policy and supports social change.”
Learning about the work of the Women’s Environmental Institute has inspired us here at the Women’s Center at LPTS to find out more about agriculture (the growing, distributing, buying and selling, preparing of food), the environment, and their multi-faceted connections to gender and its arrangements and relationships. It doesn’t take too much to convince us that the most concrete, incarnational matters — how people grow food, how people make food, what people eat, which people get to eat when — are the places where justice has to be done, and where some news really has to happen to be good. We still have a lot to learn — but stay tuned for more!