Blue Ridge Woman in Agriculture profiles women who work in agriculture throughout Western North Carolina, including farmers, homesteaders and activists. BRWIA seeks to spotlight women who exemplify the multitude of ways women are working to connect with and change our food system.
Amy Galloway is an associate professor of Developmental Psychology at Appalachian State University and studies the eating habits of young children. Amy joined BRWIA’s board in 2007 in hopes of finding a fulfilling way to give back to the local community and has served as the board president for the past four years. Amy currently lives on a small farm with her husband and 3-year-old daughter where they raise chickens and sheep along with a garden for growing fresh beans and vegetables. This past fall she received the well deserved ‘Woman in Agriculture’ award at the 58th Farm City Banquet. We sat down with Amy at her home to talk about her relationship with agriculture and BRWIA:
We live on four acres, one acre has the house, one has the flat garden area and then we have a two-acre hill. When we moved in we were more excited about the property than the house because it’s perfect for having a garden, and I had always wanted to keep goats or sheep. We always knew we would have animals up on the hill one day even though there was no fence when we moved in. We eventually got sheep a few years after we settled in and we use them mainly for pasture maintenance and fiber, no meat production yet. We grow lots of fava beans, garlic, snow peas and flowers. We raise chickens mostly for the eggs, but we processed our first chicken recently, so that may be something we continue to do. At this point we’re really just doing it for ourselves, but eventually we may start growing things to sell. The hill behind our house used to be an orchard, so we’ve been slowly accumulating fruit trees with the intent of restoring that area to its former glory. I’m sure that when the trees start producing we’ll have more fruit than we could ever eat ourselves.
What is your background? Have you always been in a food or an agriculture-related profession?
I’ve always been interested in animals, and I studied animal behavior in graduate school. A dear aunt of mine introduced me to gardening as a youngster and I’ve been hooked ever since. Although I’m only a few generations removed from full-time farming, I don’t have any farming experience myself. It seems like a leap for me to ever consider doing it professionally. I love the aesthetic qualities of growing food as much as the practical aspects of it.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges to your ideal ‘picture of agriculture’ in this area?
Without a doubt, I think land development is the No. 1 obstacle for new farmers. The price of land in this region is high because of the tourist industry, so it’s not feasible for a cash-strapped new farmer to make a profit with a high mortgage to pay. The unique topography of our hilly area is also a challenge and partially responsible for the high number of small family farms in the area.
Why do you think women are the fastest growing demographic of small farmers?
Well, I think the proportion of women and men is becoming more balanced in many professions now, so it makes sense that we see the same trend in farming. A common topic that is discussed among our board members is the notion of “civic agriculture” and how many women seem to be drawn to agriculture with the hope of fulfilling a meaningful role in the community. Also, I think that for some women, growing food fulfills a maternal desire to provide sustenance to their family or to their community. Lastly, on a practical note, the flexibility and autonomy that farming offers could be appealing to some women.