July 20, 2019 | 85° F

Faculty cultivates Turkish women’s agricultural skills

The Women Farmers Project, a program launched in part by a University professor, centers on training Turkish women how to grow as farmers.

Robin Brumfield, a farm management specialist at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and Mick Minard, strategic communications consultant, created the program, which is modeled after Annie’s Project — an educational initiative for women farmers in New Jersey.

Minard, who is also a photographer, said all humans face two major global challenges: climate change and population growth, both of which are being countered by sustainable farming practices.

“Women farmers … are critical agents for enhancing agricultural and rural development, poverty reduction and a healthier planet,” she said. “The Women Farmers Project… recognizes that women farmers are at the heart of innovative opportunities in agriculture, capable of social value and a more sustainable future.

Brumfield said she was motivated to extend the project after it proved successful in New Jersey. She contacted her friend, Burhan Ozkan, a Department of Agricultural Economics professor at Akdeniz University, who asked her to research gender analysis in the Turkish greenhouse industry.

“I chose Turkey because my daughter Suzanne is half Turkish, and I wanted to empower farmwomen in her second country,” she said in an email from Antalya, Turkey. “I [also] had an invitation from Akdeniz University in Antalya to conduct my sabbatical work in Turkey.”

Brumfield, Ozkan and Minard interviewed farmwomen in the Antayla Province of Turkey in September to create a pilot, Brumfield said. They developed two programs — one that focuses on greenhouse tomato production, and the other which focuses on citrus production.

Bedrullah Ercin, provincial director of food, agriculture and livestock in Antalya Province, and a select team of Agricultural Extension Educators at The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) helped the team find women and propose a location and plan for the program, Brumfield said.

The purpose of the project is to have the women develop business plans for their farming, which Brumfield said would help them succeed and prosper in a region where women are not usually taught such skills.

“Dr. Ozkan and I are teaching the business management portion of the program,” she said. “The Extension Educators are delivering the technical program or bringing in technical experts from Akdeniz University.”

Additionally, Minard will teach computer literacy, with a focus on new media, marketing and information technologies for the management, promotion and profitability of small- to medium-sized agricultural enterprises, Brumfield said.

The three selected 45 women for the pilot program based on a fixed criterion by MINFAL, which included being between the ages of 25 and 45, married with one or two children and owning at least 0.4 hundred acres of greenhouse area, she said.

All women were first-time participants and had to demonstrate a passion for learning this field of study, Brumfield said.

“From our initial interviews … they seemed to see agriculture as … a way to make money to educate their children, but not something they want their children to do,” she said.

But Brumfield hopes to see a change in their attitude toward farming by providing them with the necessary tools and resources to make their farms more profitable as a business the women could be proud of.

Minard said she wants to use her specialization in media and photography to publicize the program and shed light on female agricultural enterprises and activities.

Brumfield said the Women Farmers Project is turning out to be as successful as its predecessor, Annie’s Project, since women are much more responsive to this type of program than any other demographic.

She said there is something significant and distinct about female farmers uniting for a cause that inspires them to make Annie’s Project and the Turkish Women Farmers Project as successful as it is.

The women of Antalya are involved in their program and have found a great deal of inspiration, said Brumfield, who hopes she herself contributed to this flourishing mentality.

“The women are all doing their homework, completing their business plans, coming to all of the workshops and sharing with each other,” she said. “Many of them bring cameras from home to take pictures with me and have told me I am their hero.”

By Syjil Ashraf

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