#YEEinterview: Regenerative Urban Farm – The Feminist Farmers

In today’s interview, you will get to know the founders of The Feminist Farmers – an association that aims to pursue questions of gender, food, autonomy and community resilience. But what does feminism have to do with farming? Keep reading and you will find out!


Who is part of the team? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

We are a group of four international design students in different stages of our studies, but with a common interest in feminism, plant-based diets, design and exploring different ways to work with sustainability and more resilient forms of growing food. We’re Leah Ireland (Canadian/ Swiss/ Scottish), Karen Cort Nielsen (Danish), Laura Fahndrich (German) and Una Hallgrimsdottir (Icelandic) and – the latest addition to the team – Rasmus Coris (German). 

Three years ago, we founded the Feminist Farmers in Brande Udde: an economic association that aims to pursue questions of gender, food, autonomy and community resilience. Our urban farming collective is based around integrating social and ecological issues. We stand for decolonial practices and intersectional perspectives on sustainability and recognize the importance of recognizing biodiversity in ourselves as well as the ecologies we live with. 

We’ve grown over the years and now sell vegetables to a hyper-local restaurant that is completely organic and seasonally based, hold events and workshops, vegetable picking events and speak at public events in town. We’ve also catered events, from Christmas dinners to Halloween Mocktail nights at our local movie theatre. Because of our artistic background, we invite many different groups to come and explore what the future of farming can look and feel like, how it can be integrated into the community and be used as a practice to create stronger social relationships. 

How did you come up with the idea of a regenerative urban farm? And how does it work?

Regenerative agriculture/ farming/ growing is not a new way of producing food, but it’s been forgotten through processes of capitalist standardization, the scaling up of production and the loss of small-scale farms in favour of mega-agricultural businesses growing monocrops. To regenerate means to bring back or reintroduce energy, nutrients and ‘food’ to a system, site, or being. Regenerative agriculture is based on bringing back biodiversity, lively topsoil, circular water systems and drawing down carbon back from the atmosphere. In short, it promotes better relationships between us and our multispecies communities, and aims to increase systemic resiliency in the face of climate change and climate emergency. 

There are many places around the world that never stopped growing regeneratively, though it goes by different names in different languages. At the same time, there are many civilizations, or empires, that have come to an end because of mismanagement of ecosystemic health: taking repetitively from the soil, without giving back or understanding the necessity of circularity. It is a classic humancentric story: taking what the land gives, and moving on when it becomes exhausted. It is obvious that this can longer keep taking place without slowly killing ourselves. The time is now to develop ways of feeding our communities that aren’t destructive.

How would you define the relation between food systems and oppression?

Looking at our globalized systems of trade, we absolutely cannot look away from how megacorporations create monopolies, pursue exploitative capitalism and promote overconsumption in the ‘West’. We have food from all over the world, but its value, represented in monetary terms, pales in comparison with all of the energy that has been invested across time, space, borders and bodies. 

We’ve become used to having what we think we want available to us, and we don’t want to pay much for it. We don’t think of the ultimate cost of what this means.  There are people who grow those cheap tomatoes, beans, strawberries and bananas, and what are their lives like? There are vast areas being deforested for mono-agriculture and what rights do the trees have? The animals that live in these places? Or the soil that becomes subjected to pesticides and erosion? 

There are ways of feeding ourselves, empowering our communities and repairing our relationships across cultures and peoples, but it requires a rigorous and dedicated movement. Decolonizing our food systems is a necessary step, growing locally another. We need to shift how we consume, how we live as cultivators of our own diverse food culture(s) and recognize how our choices in our supermarkets have global impact. Most of us become uncomfortable with our privileges, and find it easier to turn away, because there is perhaps shame or fear associated with these recognitions, but the work is already underway and there are paths to less oppressive future(s). It doesn’t have to mean we will have less or that it will necessarily be harder. Reparations and abundance are possible.

Which is the biggest challenge you have faced (or you are facing) since setting up this organization?

Having enough time and energy to do all of the things we see are needed and wanted. We need better systems for teaching volunteers and interested farmers so that we can support each other better and better facilitate our common goals, visions and needs. There is always work to be done, always something that needs tending, and because the work is so intimately affected by climate, earth and its systems, there can be a lot of unexpected demands that require attention. 

The Feminist Farmers has been run by international students who study 100% and have the farm as a side project, and it has worked within our collective, changing and shifting. There was stress involved at times as expected in start-ups, especially when we were all beginners, and we did A LOT together, it was really a whirlwind. Now, three members have graduated and moved away, and Rasmus and I are faced with a question of scale, possibilities and how to keep the farm running through the transition of finding new members. 

Which kind of reactions/feedbacks have the regenerative urban farm received?

Our community both online and offline have been incredibly supportive and nourishing. We’ve been able to chat and share experiences with farmers of different scales and practices, from all over the world. Through different events, conferences, presentations and media coverage though, we’ve felt both moral support and criticality. We’ve had men tell us to our face that feminism isn’t necessary any more and it doesn’t make sense with a farming project, or that they’re interested in farming but can’t we leave gender out of it? We’ve had others standing in our fields and clapping for us, and international researchers, artists, academics, teachers and students of all ages reaching out to learn more. There have been experiences that have been frustrating, but each challenging conversation about why we’re doing what we’re doing has taught us how to navigate sticky situations. We’ve witnessed a lot of joy for our customers who visit us for our picking events, and seeing their laughter, surprise and excitement has been an incredible source of energy for us. 

How do you plan to engage entrepreneurs in thinking outside the capitalistic box, integrating circularity and self-sustaining forms of the local economy? And do you think that this experimental space can be applied to any community in the world or is it more suitable to one specific context?

We plan to co-develop workshops and seminars around these topics and try to help facilitate conversations and test out different strategies. 

It absolutely can, it isn’t actually that hard to start as growing food can be adapted to so many different contexts, from urban to rural spaces there are ways to grow food. As a community project, you just need to meet your neighbours, find some common ground (pun intended) and  I truly believe that it’s necessary (and fun, AND exciting!) to get neighbours together to become more self-sufficient by growing food together. 

In your opinion, which role does youth play in raising awareness about environmental issues?

In the Global North, I think youth are in a unique position in society, literally needing to challenge everything about the world that they’re just being introduced to, while being embedded within systems of comfort and privilege that they need to deconstruct. There is grief, fear and frustration undoubtedly for finding ourselves needing to fight for their very right to have a future. For those of us who were raised in colonial societies run on oil profits, deforestation, globalization and capitalism, there is a process of critical reflection that is necessary to be able to see how our worlds are constructed by unsustainable practices and norms that need to be challenged. Youth need to be supported in these confrontations, to see that there are people who want to help facilitate their hopes and dreams for futures not based on exploitation of earth and its many inhabitants. It can be a synergistic process, helping youth to find empowerment, agency and inspiration, in turn, becoming empowered, agentic and inspired ourselves.

It is a very tricky situation, to ask youth to hold the responsibility for the weight of the future of humankind. If we are to reduce the impacts of climate change and find resilient ways of adapting to change and transition, we all need to participate. We all need to be each other’s (and ourselves) heroes. We have to all work together, across sectors, ages, cultures, borders and abilities.

Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?

As with any bigger project of this sort, there are many, many things that could have been done differently, but then, where would we be? It’s been a wild ride. If I could choose one thing to tweak though, it would be to better document and celebrate the small things, the accomplishments and good things. To be more present as they were happening. 

What’s next for you and the regenerative urban farm?

We’re moving into winter now and it will be a time of rest after a very busy and uncertain year. We’re transitioning in terms of roles and responsibilities and mindfully choosing to focus on self-care first and foremost. The Feminist Farmers have the community demand to expand, but we think it’s important to stay small and make it really feel good and make it work for ourselves. It is also a time to connect with others and find ways of supporting our work. 

Which advice would you give to the young people like you who want to be more active in environmental protection?

Do your research on who and with what you’re aligning yourself with. 

Reach out to people you find inspiring or interesting. It’s not that they may always have time to respond, but if they do, it can be a huge boost. Don’t underestimate your value and what you are also giving. Hearing from people who think my work is cool gives me so much energy and joy. Connecting with others who are out there doing the things, can reinforce us, and help get us through challenging times. 

What are your strengths? What do you like? What gets you up in the morning? Can you integrate those things that bring you joy into your work? I like plants, singing, dancing, and cooking delicious vegan food. Don’t lose sight of the things that move you, keep them close.

Put decolonization at the centre of your work. Reflect on your unique positioning in the world. Where do you come from? What are your privileges and how can you use them creatively to address your cause? Understanding how these things interact is an incredibly empowering tool and can help kickstart new ideas and innovative concepts.  

Communication is key, this is cliche, and so true, it can’t be taken for granted.

Don’t be afraid to try and try not to be afraid of failing, it is inevitable and healthy and weird at the time, but you get over it and then feel like a badass. Listen to your gut, really. Take care of your heart. Listen to what your body is telling you and find a balance that feels healthy and sustainable. Find strategies of self-care. Dancing (some may say flailing), candles and rolling around on my yoga mat help me a lot. 

Thanks to the team of The Feminist Farmers for taking part in the YEEinterviews. Business as usual needs to change, and the aim to do this from the ground up, from soil to social relationships and the systems in which we live seems ambitious. Good luck with your future projects!

Don´t forget to check out The Feminist Farmers on social media 



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