Sowing the Future: Women Farmers + EcoAgriculture

An arts project about women farmers engaged in sustainable farming practices in the Ottawa / Outaouais Region.

Semer l’avenir : une exposition d’art mettant en vedette des agricultrices et l’éco-agriculture

Artist’s Talk Saturday October 1 Ottawa artist, curator and writer Petra Halkes chatted with Jess, Diane and Barbara about their artistic goals for the project and the year-long cooperative creative process that led up to the show.

Farmer Panel (sponsored by Dovetail Workwear) Sunday October 2 Susan Walsh, award-winning author and past Executive Director of SeedChange hosted a conversation with several of the women farmers featured in the project about their experience during the challenging 2022 growing season and their thoughts on how we can strengthen food sovereignty in the Ottawa Outaouais Region.

This project is the proud recipient of a Tontine Award, which funds women’s creativity in Ottawa Gatineau.

Juniper Turgeron ~ Juniper Farm, Wakefield, Quebec photo: Barbara Brown

Women play a vital role in agriculture worldwide, yet they are often not represented in the collective social image of farmers.

Les femmes ont toujours joué un rôle vital dans l’agriculture de par le monde entier. Cependant, elles brillent par leur absence dans l’imaginaire contemporain.

This creative arts project features seven women who are farming sustainably on the traditional Algonquin Anishinaabe lands of the Ottawa / Outaouais Region.

Ce projet artistique met en vedette huit femmes qui cultivent de façon durable, les terres traditionnelles algonquines Anishinaabe de la région d’Ottawa/Outaouais.

We are creating an arts exhibit which will tell the story of these dedicated farmers by presenting vibrant painted portraits, photos of their farming practice and poetic reflections about their experiences.

Des portraits peints, vibrants de couleurs, des photographies de leurs pratiques agricoles et des réflexions poétiques représentent chaque femme

The farmers

Photos: Barbara Brown | Painting: Jess Weatherhead

The artists

Jess Weatherhead 

A keen observer of life, Jess paints her subjects with love, sensitivity and humour in a way that captures the essence of their personalities. Her deep connection to people and the land is reflected in her vibrant colourful portraits which are presented in a way that entices viewers to look more closely and share in the story behind the image.

She and her partner Robin run Roots and Shoots Farm, a small scale, organic vegetable farm in Ste. Cecile de Masham, close to Wakefield, Quebec.

Jess graduated from St. Stephen’s University and also attended the Ottawa School of Art. She has been creating art for over twenty years, mostly painting with oil, but also experimenting with pen, pencil, watercolour and mixed media.

Barbara Brown

Barbara Brown’s current work is photo-based and explores the intersection of place and identity through natural materials and human activity as a visual meditation in and about the landscape. Her work deals with memory and the passage of time referencing the growing season and the inevitable decline of all things as observed in the garden. Her work functions as momento mori, a reminder of the inevitability of death as experienced in the cycles of life.

Barbara trained as a visual artist at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University and completed her graduate work at Manchester Metropolitan University, England. She has exhibited in solo and group shows nationally and internationally, most recently in LifeCycle Conversations, a collaboration with sculptor Cynthia O’Brien at Karsh-Masson Gallery. Brown completed month-long residencies at Mauser EcoHouse, Costa Rica, and Kingsbrae International Resident for the Arts in St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick. Most recently, she exhibited with artist/partner Daniel Sharp at Studio Sixty Six, Ottawa and EarthBound at the School of Photography, Ottawa.

Diane Perazzo

An eco-witch in the Reclaiming tradition, Diane’s writing combines a love of herbalism with a deep respect for magic informed by her earth-based spirituality. Her poetry has been called a “gorgeous treat for the spirit” and “a feast for the senses” and carries a heart-felt attention to the details of the mystery, messiness and power of Nature’s turnings. 

Diane graduated from Carleton University and has worked for many years in health promotion and disease prevention. Her company Wordsmith Writing and Editing Services supports the work of nonprofit community groups and public health organizations to communicate about a variety of current issues such as climate change, health equity and mental health. As she “eases into her elder years”, her writing is becoming more focused on crafting verses and stories that strive to echo the magical and mythic voices of the living land and her beings.

And so she rises

And so she rises,
green and bright,
seeking the promise of light. She is
naked, porous and ethereal
–a tiny autotrophic star.

And so she rises.
Higher and higher
up through the willing soil,
bursting from earth’s shell
into a wild and windswept world of
air and sun and white clouds
that sail across cerulean skies.

And still she rises,
her tiny leaves form,
her upright stem stretches,
her fractaled branches multiply
in an ecstasy of expansion

Ravenous for radiance,
she gulps in greedy delight.
Photons filter into foliage
and as light is synthesized,
her life truly begins.

Her birth was written by the cosmos.
Her journey is informed by galactic decree.
And as she lives, the planets in the heavens will hail her.

So greet her with reverence
and honour her rising. For her seeds
will form and inform this world
as she guides us into the future.

~ diane perazzo

Catherine Wallenburg ~ Northern Seeds
photo: Barbara Brown

Isabelle Rhodes ~ Vintage Soil Farm
photo: Barbara Brown

Exhibition resources and materials

Jamie MacPherson The spotlight is on women farmers in Sowing the Future. September 27, 2022 Published in

Interview about the show with Barbara, Jess and Diane on CBC Ottawa’s “All in a Day” September 29, 2022. (12-minute audio)

Feminine Solidarity in the Struggle for Food Sovereignty, by Colleen Ross    

Sowing the Future: Honouring Seven Women Farmers through Art and Poetry, by Petra Halkes

RIA Links: Artist for Systems Change: RIA invites artists from the Ottawa area who share a drive for Systems Change to showcase their projects and discuss their ideas in RIA Links Salons.

FOODBARONS2022: Crisis Profiteering, Digitalization and Shifting Power, by Etc. Group


La solidarité feminine dans la lutte pour la souveraineté alimentaire. par Colleen Ross

Semer l’avenir : Hommage à sept agricultrices à travers l’art et la poésie, par Petra Halkes