Tools for Women?
Now, I must be honest. When I read about a company that sells gardening tools for women, I thought it was simply a marketing ploy. Perhaps they sell pink spades, I thought, disparagingly.
I was wrong.
Their premise is simple – women’s bodies are different to men’s, so garden and farm tools for women should be different. The two women who started Green Heron Tools have a background in health, and a few years ago they went into market gardening to help family. They battled with some of the tools and equipment.
For example, men have more upper-body strength than women. So when men use a shovel, they rely on upper-body strength to thrust it into the ground. Women however will rely more on their legs to use the shovel, because that’s where more strength is.
(The founders of this company are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that women are less able than men, just different).
Another example is equipment which uses a pull cord to start an engine – the pull cord is typically too long for an average-sized woman’s arms. I can remember pushing the lawn mower away from me as I tried to start it, so I was interested to read that this is a common problem for women. Plus there’s the upper-body strength thing. And most machines are designed for right-handers and I’m a leftie. So a lawn mower ergonomically designed for women would have either a shorter cord or an electric switch.
The reason this is pertinent is because of the rapid rise in women-operated farms. According to the US Census of Agriculture, between 2002 and 2007 the number of women-operated farms grew by 29%, while the number of farms overall increased by less than 4%.
As a general rule in the US, women-run farms tend to be smaller, more diversified, organic and sell directly to customers, for example via farmers’ markets.
In developing countries, rural women produce half of the world’s food! (UN Food and Agriculture Organization).
With so many women working in agriculture it seems silly that all tools continue to be made for men. And yet, the founders say that the only place they’ve found some effort being made, is in India.
Many people assume that of course women can use the same tools as men, women just aren’t as good at using them. But tools need to fit correctly. In fact, while researching this problem, the founders said they came across countless women who got frustrated because they weren’t strong enough, but in fact it’s not their strength but the ergonomics that are the problem.
However, it’s not just for women that tools can be made more friendly. As men age, their level of testosterone drops, and so their upper-body strength diminishes. As both men and women age, they become more susceptible to injury, so ergonomic tools become more important.
So what do tools for women have to do with being eco-friendly? In addition to the ‘do no harm’ ethos, I’m personally very much in favour of the sustainable food movement. Many women are involved in organic agriculture, and it makes sense for manufacturers to offer tools which will help not hinder them.
I think Green Heron Tools have a unique concept and I hope they do well!
Green Heron Tools are based in New Tripoli, PA and they sell online.
Photo Credit: Corbis / Microsoft