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Women, Food and Agriculture Network records

Identifier: IWA0752

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Scope and Contents

The Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) records date from 1994 to 2011 and measure 8.5 linear feet. The mission statement and objectives are found in a brochure located in folder 1. The bulk of the records consist of newsletters and postings to an unmoderated electronic list concerning sustainable agriculture, globalization, women's issues, and the environment. Members submit items to the list from a variety of news sources, progressive organizations, and alternative farms resulting in a collection that is a fairly comprehensive coverage of issues concerning progressive agriculture, feminism, and the environment. The WFAN records also include resources surrounding similar topics as well as additional information from membership meetings and newspaper articles about the organization's growth in the 21st century.

Postings from the last quarter of 1999 include items from many organizations that organized protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. The preponderance of postings have been printed on acid-free paper and included in this collection; absent are single-word comments on long articles, brief words of welcome to new members, or items erroneously posted to the list serve instead of to individuals.


  • Creation: 1994-2011


Conditions Governing Access

The records are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is held by the author of the postings to the listserve.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Denise O'Brien, founder of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN), became an activist on behalf of family farmers in the 1980s. During that decade, she directed the Rural Women's Leadership Development project at Prairie Fire Rural Action organization, but this project was not sustained. The initial impulse to form WFAN grew out of conversations between Kathy Lawrence and Denise O'Brien during a post-conference in 1993 following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. They formed the Women, Food, and Agriculture Working Group to sponsor a two-week workshop and represent the interests of women in agriculture at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. After Kathy Lawrence left the Midwest, O'Brien organized a rural women's workshop for the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, Italy. Recognizing the need for a network of rural women to sponsor workshops and amplify women's voices in agriculture and development, O'Brien began conceptualizing a network for women in agriculture.

In February 1997 at the Women's Gathering of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, Betty Wells, Danielle Wirth, Virginia Wadsley, Shelly Gradwell, Rhonda Yoder and Denise O'Brien met to consider forming an organization. After two further meetings, they coordinated a three-day workshop "Rural Women, the Economy, and the Environment" in July 1997. By October 1997, charter members of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) had written a mission statement, goals and objectives. Funded by grants, WFAN has continued to meet bi-annually, publish a quarterly newsletter, and maintain an active electronic listserv. Members include women farmers, educators, and extension agents and activists. Denise O'Brien has acted as paid and/or volunteer director of WFAN since the founding.


8.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Organization connecting women with progressive approaches to agriculture.

Method of Acquisition

The records of the WFAN listserv and WFAN meetings from 1994 - 2007.

Doris Malkmus, 2001. Emma Barton-Norris, 2021.
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)