Investing in Women: Farming for the Future

February 18, 2014 Johanna Goetzel

Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum is an exceptional woman who advocates for connecting physical and psychological well-being as part of the global ethos for improved health.  The Vitality Institute is honored to count her as one of our Commissioners.

Rhonda’s heroic past, documented in her book, is only a shade more exciting than her work today as a farmer. Rhonda developed a love for farming early in life when she spent her summers on a family farm in Ohio. Today she grows nearly all of her own food in Paris, Kentucky, a practice she considers good for the body and environment. She believes that the closer food is to its natural state, the better it is, “if a product has more than five ingredients, it is not a real food.”

Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world. Rhonda is one of many female farmers worldwide, but in the minority of female land owners. Women farmers produce more than half of the food grown in the world, yet receive only about 5% of agriculture extension services and own about 2% of land worldwide. Closing the gender gap in agriculture will have economic benefits for world’s economic and food system. S. Ayyappan, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said “By failing to invest in women farmers we are handicapping ourselves in the quest for sustainable and more productive agriculture systems and more food-secure societies.” With this global sentiment and individual demonstration of resilience, we celebrate women farmers worldwide and thank them for their efforts in literally putting produce on our plates.

Rhonda considers herself privileged to have her own farm, and in her own words, she tries to be an example of how people can live.  On a final note, Rhonda offers the two rules that she lives by:

  1. The fact that you have made a mistake in the past is not a good reason to keep doing it.
  2. Don’t let other people’s expectations of you limit your own expectations of yourself.

Honoring resilience and inner strength, The Vitality Institute wishes a very happy (belated) International Women’s Day to all.

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