Audra Mulkern is a cook, photographer and writer: four years ago she decided to dedicate herself to the world of agriculture and the production chain that brings food from the fields to our dinner tables, to draw attention to the importance of farming for feeding the planet. Her latest work is entitled Female Farmer Project and documents the increasing numbers of women involved in agriculture through photos and stories to transform the way we see this occupation, stereotypes included.
The women of the Female Farmer Project express their own individual ways of being part of modern agriculture, closely linked to notions of nourishment and sustainability. These stories of women farmers are told in relation to everyday life, involving family, the fields and often another job beyond the farm. Cheese producers, journalists, biologists and artists, via their concrete testimonies, outline in real terms the increasingly important role of women in modern agriculture, in terms of both quantity and quality. Story by story, Mulkern recounts the day-to-day lives of women trying to produce the best food possible.
The project has other aims: to identify ethical food, its true cost and how to acquire it. It seeks both to inspire consumers to think critically, and to make the work that goes into our diet better known. The Female Farmer Project becomes even more valuable if considered in the context of the International Year of Family Farming, launched by the United Nations in 2014 to highlight the major role and potential of family farmers in the struggle against hunger and the preservation of natural resources. According to United Nations data covering both developed and developing countries, over 500 million family farms (defined as establishments relying mainly on family members for work and management) produce enough food to feed billions. In many developing countries family farms represent on average 80% of the total.
Describing and giving prominence to this industrial fabric, and its countless little stories, is therefore a first step towards recognizing the central role they play not just in terms of food, but also for environmental resources and the goal of sustainable development.
The most valuable lessons Mulkern has drawn while developing the project alongside women farmers – as she herself states – are patience and planning. The ingredients of her own Recipe for Life.