Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat
by Temra Costa


Gibbs Smith, 2010. ISBN 978-1-423-60562-1.
Reviewed by Barbara L. Heller
Posted on 06/11/2010

Nonfiction: Active Life; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

Questions about what we eat and how our food is produced are certainly trendy—and important—topics. There has been much written lately about the hazards of our present food system and various explanations for its deterioration. Farmer Jane instead highlights women who are involved in hopeful, creative, and inspiring food and farming ventures.

Farmer Jane covers a lot of ground—including women who are involved with community supported agriculture (CSA's), farming, markets, seed saving, farm to school programs, rural and urban farms, filmmaking, and writing. Some of the women are farmers, chefs and restaurant owners, activists working in nonprofit organizations, and one who calls herself a "culinary anthropologist." This book is well-written reportage, filled with facts, individual chronologies concerning food activism, explanations of techniques and strategies, and quotes by the featured women. The back section includes a helpful bibliography and a listing of over 30 women mentioned in the book and their affiliations and contact information.

There are many women with serious plans and also those with a sense of humor. Some of the cute place names noted are Full Belly Farm, Ghost Town Farm, and Inn Serendipity. My favorite is Pie Ranch—where, in addition to many other farm products, wheat and many varieties of berries are grown to make and sell their namesake desserts.

The author serves us politics with a passion, which occasionally degenerates into pontification. An example:

When you work to create a more equitable and sustainable food system, as you do when you join a CSA or other form of buying direct from farmers, you inevitably become an activist—an activist for a new type of food system, one that does not enslave poeple or commodify or pollute the Earth, so that future generations too may enjoy this ethical and healthful eating.
Although I think Farmer Jane lacks a storytelling quality which might make it more inspirational, it is a wonderful reference for anyone interested in the many ways that women are positively effecting the food landscape. So even if after reading Farmer Jane you don't become an activist, this book may help you to reflect on your personal food habits and values. It just might also encourage more of us to join together to collaborate and create more healthy eating opportunities. Bon Appetit!


Temra Costa is a nationally recognized sustainable food and farming advocate. In addition to Farmer Jane, 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, 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 food and communications consultant for various businesses, and speaks at events throughout the year. Visit Temra's website.

(See another review of this book, here)

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