Saturday, September 25, 2010

Green book of the week: Farmer Jane by Temra Costa (including an interview with the author)

If you were surprised by the fact that Michelle Obama took last Friday the spouses of 32 world leaders on a trip to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York, then you really shouldn't. Sustainable and local food is becoming an increasingly significant topic and the First Lady is one of its leading supporters.

And she is not the only woman involved in this growing industry. A growing number of women is dominating the field and 30 of them are profiled in the new book of Temra Costa, Farmer Jane, which is our green book of the week.

Here are some more details about this book:

Title: Farmer Jane: Women Changing The Way We Eat

What the book is about:
Farmer Jane profiles thirty women in the sustainable food industry, describing their agriculture and business models and illustrating the amazing changes they are making in how we connect with food. These advocates for creating a more holistic and nurturing food and agriculture system also answer questions on starting a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, how to get involved in policy at local and national levels, and how to address the different types of renewable energy and finance them.

Author: Temra Costa
Temra Costa is a nationally recognized sustainable food and farming advocate. She has written for numerous publications on hot-button issues such as Farm to School, eating locally, food safety, and how to create regional food systems. Her previous role as statewide director of California’s Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign, and other positions held with Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), worked to engage stakeholders in our food system, from farm to fridge.

Temra works, cooks, gardens and writes in the East Bay of California. She's a radio show co-host on Green 960 (, works as a sustainable food systems consultant for various businesses, and speaks at events throughout the year.

This is a very interesting book on an extremely interesting issue and I really enjoyed reading these personal stories, so I decided to ask the author for an interview to learn more about it.

Hello, Temra. What was the reason you decided to write this book, focusing on women in the sustainable food world?

The timing was right! As women are taking more leadership roles in the food and farming sector as well as the business world in general.

How did you choose the women that you profile in the book?

I chose the women in Farmer Jane by sending out a call for nominations. I received responses from all over the country. It was really amazing.

From the 30 women you profile on your book, what story you felt mostly connected to on a personal level?

Almost all of the women talk about heart and community. Language that we're starting to hear more about - at least the community part.

You write in the introduction to the book that women "have long been underrepresented in the public sphere about the sheer amount of work they do, at home and outside of the home" - do you believe this is still the case when we have such prominent women figures leading what you describe as the "delicious revolution", from Michelle Obama and Alice Waters to Anna Lappe and Judy Wicks?

Women are still making less than men and will continue to be under acknowledged as long as the work that they do in the home, with family and with community is not valued.

Did you learn anything that surprised you while working on the book with regards to the role of women in the sustainable food industry?

Yeah, there are a lot of women ranchers out there! Second to women entering farming and food businesses because of the interest in local foods is women cattle ranchers that are succeeding their husbands. It's hard to imagine running a ranch without your partner but so many women are!

Why do you think we see so many women involved with urban farming?

It's small scale, serves and builds community, can be done in spare time, accesses volunteerism and has an immediate purpose.

Do you think that we'll continue to see so many women in key roles if and when the sustainable food industry will shift from a movement to an industry that is more focused on its business side?

This is a great question. I hope they are hired in the droves to do what they love and to make economic sense of it. Ultimately, it is our economic system that undervalues food and food producers. This needs to change so that people can make a right livelihood without "going corporate."

The sustainable food industry is still relatively small in size - do you believe we'll see it going mainstream in the near future?

Not as long as our FDA and USDA is being primarily run by the food companies that we need them to protect us from. Seriously, sustainable food, diversified foods, handmade foods are counter capitalistic models because they are time intensive and more hands on way of producing food.

Restructuring the food system will happen out of necessity due to water shortages and distribution challenges that will start to make local food a environmental and economic choice for businesses. Right now it's still riding a local food washing phase where there is a shift happening, but not to the scale that those marketing it to people require.

What you're working on these days? Any new book in the horizon?

Definitely! I've really loved talking about this subject and in traveling around and celebrating women of food in various communities around the country. I've got a few Farmer Jane sequel ideas that I'm working on at the moment.

Thank you, Temra! To learn more about Farmer Jane visit

You're welcome to pick up Farmer Jane at your local, independently-owned bookstore. To find an independent store near you, click here.

In case you don't have an indie store close by, the book is also available on Amazon.

For wholesale orders, contact Gibbs Smith Publisher directly:

Yours, Raz @ Eco-Libris
Eco-Libris: Promoting   sustainable reading!