Gender equality as a driver of lasting transformation

Gender equality as a driver of lasting transformation

Organic farmer Laura Kulow and farm-to-table initiator Alice Waters are examples of the impact women can have on the transformation towards a more sustainable food system.

A woman and a man shake hands, a field of crops can be seen in the background.

At the trade fair in February 2024, the BIOFACH Congress will illustrate the role of women in the food sector in creating a more sustainable future. Organic farmer Laura Kulow and Farm-to-Table initiator Alice Waters are shining examples of the kind of influence women can have on achieving a lasting transformation of the food system.

The Congress theme for BIOFACH 2024 focuses on the transformational power of women in the food sector and their role in creating a more sustainable future for the food system. In making this choice, international patron IFOAM – Organics International and national supporting organization Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (German Federation of the Organic Food Industry, BÖLW) are breaking new ground by providing more encouragement for gender equality. And highlighting what women are achieving in this seemingly male-dominated sector. “We are seeing an increasing number of women who are developing strategic, end-to-end, practical solutions all along the organic value chain,” says Tina Andres, Chair of national organic association BÖLW. “These women are making lasting changes to the future of food and agriculture.” The choice of Congress theme is aimed at improving their visibility.


Organic is not enough for her: Kulow wants to make her business even healthier for the planet

Laura Kulow runs a 500-hectare agricultural organic grain farm in Saxony-Anhalt. Together with nine other businesses, she is among the pioneers who joined Bohlsener Mühle in performing a regional value/performance calculation, a means of working out the monetary value of the public services performed by farmers at a social, environmental and regional economic level. Kulow is convinced: “This calculation makes our contribution to more sustainable agriculture visible. That enables greater appreciation and, in particular, a process of continuous improvement.” She is therefore one of the first to have drawn specific conclusions from the results, and is now planning to plant a new agroforest in order to improve her contribution in the area of “habitat creation” on a lasting basis.


Alice Waters’ philosophy: an inspiration for an entire movement

Alice Waters was one of the first chefs to highlight the importance of seasonal, local and organically grown foodstuffs. In the early 1970s she opened the restaurant “Chez Panisse” in Berkeley, California, which was one of the first Farm-to-Table restaurants in the US. Today she is celebrated as an activist and founder of this global movement. “I realized that the people who take care of the land are precious and need to be paid for the hard work they do. I didn’t think that was radical,” Waters asserts. “To me it seemed natural: We take care of the land; we celebrate the harvest; we use seasonal, local ingredients to cook together; and we sit down at the table to eat.1 Her philosophy has inspired many people to be more conscious of how and what they eat, and to appreciate the quality of their foodstuffs.


True sustainability is possible only with gender equality

The Congress theme is not only intended to highlight positive examples. The numbers show that there is still a lot to do in the area of gender equality. In the OECD countries, male owners still predominate in businesses in the agricultural sector.  In this connection, fostering gender inclusion can have positive impacts on the food systems’ triple challenge of ensuring food security and nutrition for a growing population, supporting the livelihoods of millions of people working in the food supply chain, and doing so in an environmentally sustainable way.2 “The specific purpose of the Congress theme is to encourage a shift in perspective. By adopting this theme, the sector is highlighting the power of gender equality in creating a sustainable future for our planet,” says Steffen Waris, Exhibition Director BIOFACH and VIVANESS. “This an area where women are a driving force, and in terms of gender equality, which is also one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDG No. 5), it is down to all of us to work together to promote diversity, inclusion and equality across the gender divides!”


Women in the organic sector in focus

In addition to the women quoted here, other strong personalities such as Katharina Reuter (Managing Director of the Bundesverband Nachhaltige Wirtschaft), Heike van Braak (Editor-in-Chief of industry magazine BIOwelt), Pippa Hackett (organic farmer and Ireland’s Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity) and Sylvia Kuria (Kenyan organic farmer, who has taken on the task of familiarizing other farmers with methods of organic cultivation) show how many women are already driving the organic sector and the food sector as a whole. BIOFACH hopes to give players such as these and other role models a more prominent stage with its choice of Congress theme for this year.


[1] Beard, A. (2017, May). Life’s Work: An Interview with Alice Waters. Harvard Business Review.

[2] Giner, C., Hobeika, M. & Fischetti, C. (2022) Gender and food systems: Overcoming evidence gaps. OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers, No. 184, OECD Publishing, Paris,



Anna Frede

Anna Frede

Junior PR Consultant | modem conclusa gmbh