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With the steady rise of females in farming, women in West County are working to make a mark in local food systems. In an effort to celebrate and collaborate women and food, Caiti Hachmyer, owner and farmer of Red H Farm, created the symposium called Foundations and the Future: Celebrating Women’s Leadership in the Food Movement. Held on Oct. 15 at the Permaculture Skills Center in Sebastopol, the event is a day of conversation and celebration to acknowledge and lift the leadership of women in the food movement.

“The goal is to create a space for an intergenerational dialogue around women’s role and leadership across the food movement,” said Hachmyer.

This dialogue is not just for farmers, Hachmyer said, but also for women working on food justice system issues, academia and policy — or anyone interested in food systems in general. She said she is hoping the event will create a cross-sectoral conversation for women working to change food systems and connect in the momentum of the movement.

“Women grow over half the food in the world despite having far fewer resources than men globally,” Hachmyer said.

According to the International Development Research Center, the majority of the world’s resource-poor farmers are women.

“And here in the western world, the work in the food movement is heavily influenced by women,” Hachmyer said. “Yet, what I find, and what I hear, across the different worlds that I work in, is that despite women doing a tremendous amount of the work, or at least as much as men, the prevailing voice and leadership of food organizations — are often male.”

The goal of the event is not to create a divide between the sexes, Hachmyer said. The event is simply to daylight the work that is being done by women, she said.

“I hope to God men come,” she said laughing. “I really do.”

In addition to a panel of speakers from Sonoma County, as well as the greater Bay Area, all of the participants at the event will have the opportunity to have a Polaroid taken of them, write a short bio, and have it posted in the indoor art space, creating a wall of leadership.

“The wall is functioning as an opportunity to shed light on all of the amazing work that is being done by women all across the movement,” Hachmyer said. “We really want to lift up and acknowledge the leadership taking place.”

Hachmyer said acknowledging the pioneers that made way for future conversations about food is important too and the transfer of wisdom is what is most valuable between the generations of women working together for a greater good.

“I think it’s really important that we acknowledge and celebrate and also make sure we remember and learn from the shoulders that we are standing on in the movement,” she said. “The movement is only where it is because of the work that people did before us.”

Sonoma County is both on the forefront of the food movement and yet tangled in the complexity of wealth and gentrification of the area, Hachmyer said, which creates a whole host of struggles for farmers trying to make change.

“For instance, land prices here are prohibitive for farmers,” she said.

Libby Batzel, owner and farmer of Beet Generation Farm, knows first hand of the high-cost of owning land and rents the acreage she farms on. Genuinely passionate about food and health, Batzel became a farmer almost a decade ago. Originally from the suburbs of Santa Rosa, she said she became interested in farming in grad school.

“I love being healthy and working hard,” she said. “I also like the potential of creating something and being a part of a growing movement.”

That being said, Batzel is thankful that Sonoma County is a trendsetter in the food movement and that it is an agricultural region, with open land and history. Viticulture, also a part of that history, Batzel said, and although abhorred by some, she feels has protected that agricultural heritage.

“It’s a double edged sword,” she said. “It’s made land prices and Ag land absolutely unavailable for farmers — it’s not even realistic, but it’s also brought a lot of money into Sonoma County and ultimately helped keep small farmers in business.”

Although not raised in farming families, both Hachmyer and Batzel feel passionately about healthy food and access to it. Originally Hachmyer studied political justice and became interested in food systems from an ethical perspective. Food for her was a tangible lens to addressing issues of social change.

“I found the food system, the disfunctionality of the food system, and the way that different communities relate to the land and the ecosystems across the world to be foundational to the social change I think we need in the world,” Hachmyer said. “This is what I hope to bring to in facilitating this event, as well as to complimenting my work in farming.”

Batzel found her connection to farming from a health perspective. Health matters, she said.

“It’s important to me to support what is actually going into our bodies. It is actually what we are — our cells are made from all of the food we digest. That broccoli I’m growing will be my kidney in two in a half months,” she said smiling.

Both women agree that events like Foundations and the Future are where minds come together to innovate. What’s actually happening in the talk may inspire people but it’s most often the hallway conversations that end up creating collaboration and change.

“None of us have the answer in how to fix this,” Batzel said. “I think that this is why events like this are really important. When you have someone picking beans for seven hours a day, they may just have a genius idea on how to fix all of this. And I definitely want to hear about it.”

The event will have an art exhibit, a farm catered lunch from BVR Farm, and a reception with music. There is a sliding scale for tickets to the event and they can be purchased at https://foundationsandthefuture.wordpress.com/