July 18, 2024

Female Farmers

Female Farmers: The New Face of Farming

By Lily Johnson

For the past few hundred years, farming in the western world has been predominantly male-dominated—men plowed the fields, worked the cattle, and ran the farms. While this isn’t a universal phenomenon, as female farmers are the norm in other parts of the world, the profession has historically been saturated with men.

LilyJohnson
LilyJohnson

But to quote Bob Dylan, “These times they are a-changin’.” Recent statistics indicate women are poised to play a significant role in the future of farming:

  • The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands, accounting for nearly a third of our nation’s farmers.
  • More than 200 million acres of farmland in the United States will change hands by 2027, with women set to own the majority of this land.
  • The USDA reports 14 percent of our nation’s farms are owned and operated by women, accounting for 62.7 million acres of farmland.
  • Female farmers are the fastest-growing demographic in small-scale and organic operations (USDA).
  • Producing $12.9 billion in annual sales, female farmers are making a substantial economic impact on agriculture (USDA).

Meet the Female Farmer

Today’s female farmer shares many similarities with her male colleagues, but with a few notable differences. Female-operated farms tend to be smaller, with fewer acres and lower annual sales. The top five commodities for female farmers include: combination crops (26 percent), beef cattle (23 percent), combination animals (22 percent), sheep and goats (7 percent), and grains and oilseeds (6 percent).

Another characteristic of this new generation of farmers is their dedication to higher education. The College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri reported a 143.6 percent increase in female student enrollment between 2004 and 2014, while Kansas State University saw a 91.4 percent increase.

Change Sparks Innovation

With change comes the opportunity for innovation. Today’s pioneering female farmers are leading the charge, from production practices to industry language, and reshaping how our culture views farming. Whether it’s adapting traditional equipment to fit their physical needs or sharing their agricultural experiences with non-ag consumers through programs like CommonGround, female farmers are emerging as the new face of agriculture.

Female agricultural professionals are not limiting their influence to farming operations; they are rapidly filling positions on boards, in corporations, extensions, legislative bodies, and management roles that were historically male-only domains. In 2001, Ann Veneman became the first female United States Secretary of Agriculture, and Kansas’s current Secretary of Agriculture is Dr. Jackie McClaskey.

The rise in female farmers is rapidly changing the perception of a once male-dominated industry. Numerous female-friendly agriculture initiatives focus on empowering women in agriculture, such as the Ag Women’s Network, FarmHer, Kansas Agri-Women, and the National Women in Agriculture Association. In Kansas, the Women Managing the Farm Conference will be held Feb. 9-10 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan.

Kansas Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee also provides excellent networking opportunities.

Interested in connecting with Kansas female farmers? Join these initiatives and be part of the change.

Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson, the eldest of the three sisters, brings a wealth of experience and expertise to Pussycat Ranch. With a degree in Agricultural Science from Texas A&M University, Emma has dedicated her life to advancing sustainable ranching practices. Her leadership skills and innovative approach have been instrumental in modernizing the ranch while preserving its rich heritage. Emma’s work has been recognized by various agricultural organizations, and she is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. Her passion for cattle ranching and commitment to environmental stewardship make her a respected figure in the agricultural community.

View all posts by Emma Johnson →

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