P-5/04 Is there a ‘feminine principle’ of farming – and is organic farming a way of expressing it?

Paper presented at the XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, July 25 - 30. It is often claimed that men and women, due to different value orientations, execute agriculture differently. In particular, the idea that women practice a more environmentally friendly or ecological style of management is found to be one of the key assumptions. The ideology of organic farming and the idea of the female management principle correspond on many points. This paper will explore empirically whether Norwegian women farmers in general represent other values and attitudes and a different practical management in agriculture than farming men, or whether organic farmers themselves represent a more ‘feminine way’ of farming than do conventional farmers. It has been found that there is a higher proportion of women farmers in organic farming than in conventional farming in Norway. This finding can be explained by theories of feminine values, but could also be seen as a strategy for women entering and defining an agricultural arena not yet stamped masculine. Elaborating further on theories of a feminine way and organic farming, this paper will go beyond the stereotypes and discuss the different femininities (and masculinities) in organic and conventional farming. Using quantitative survey data collected from representative samples of organic and conventional farmers in Norway, the following questions will be asked: Are there differences in attitudes to and motives for farming between male and female farmers, conventional and organic, and are there general differences in the structures of these farms?

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