New Brunswick

More new farmers are women than men in Atlantic Canada, study shows

A new study shows that the face of farming is changing in Atlantic Canada, where more than half of the region's new farmers are women.

55% of region's new farmers are women

Eva Rehak and her kids plant lettuce at their farm in St. Maurice, N.B. (CBC)

A new study shows that the face of farming is changing in Atlantic Canada, where more than half of the region's new farmers are women.

That's still not the normal image, however.

"You ask a child to draw a farmer and it's still, you know, a man with a hat and the straw," said Eva Rehak, one of those new farmers. "So yeah, there's a few issues."

Rehak and her daughter Rose are part of a growing trend towards more women working the farm. Their family runs Alva Farm in St. Maurice, near Bouctouche, N.B. 

In a survey done at the University of Manitoba, 55% of new farmers in Atlantic Canada were women. (CBC)
Rehak didn't grow up farming, but with her husband Alain Rousselle and three young kids she's become a seasoned farmer, supplying 80 families with organic vegetables.

Role models

A recent study by Julia Laforge at the University of Manitoba shows that more new farmers in Atlantic Canada are women, some 55 per cent.

"They didn't have any role models growing up, they didn't know any women who were farming by themselves," said Laforge about the women who responded to her survey. 

"Now, a new generation of farmers are in their early 20s, and can look and see women older than them who are farming on their own or with their partners or whatever relationship they might have, who identify as farmers, not as farm wives."

Building community

A little south of St. Maurice, in McKees Mills, Sarah Smith leases land for her Sweet Soil Organic Farm, in its second growing season.

You won't find that stereotypical farmer there.

"Myself, Allison, Carla, another worker, there's another apprentice this year, Jennifer, so a lot of the time on the farm, it's all ladies," said Smith.

Eva Rehak, her husband Allain and their three kids run the Alva Farm. (CBC)
Smith loves all aspects of her new business, and says having a supportive farming community like the one in this region helps.

"The network is there for people to get together to talk about what opportunities there are around and so I think that's a very inviting type of environment for women," she explained.

Eva Rehak admits farming isn't easy, and while she isn't sure exactly why other women get into the business, she knows it's for her.

"Because I can't see myself doing anything else."