March is National Women’s History Month, and a fitting time to recognize the promising number of women in agricultural vocations that were once exclusively held by men. Although most of the farms and ranches in the U.S. are still owned and operated by men, women are proving that they are more than willing to get their hands dirty! Recent trends show a steady climb in the percentage of women who oversee farming operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2007 Census reported that one-third of all farm operators in the nation were women. Fourteen percent of those women were the principal farm operators, representing a 19 percent increase over data from the 2002 Census. USDA is compiling the results of its 2012 survey and the number of women who own and manage farms is expected to rise even more dramatically.
The number of women enrolled in agricultural programs at the college level has also experienced a significant increase in recent years. The rising number of women farmers brings more than just gender diversity to agriculture; data shows that farms and ranches operated by women produce different crops and raise different animals compared to those operated by men. Many female farmers are exploring organic farming methods and establishing local farming businesses.
Worldwide, increased attention is being focused on the need to educate women in rural, developing areas and provide them the tools needed to support their communities through agricultural labor. Organizations like Farming First are fighting to provide women in agriculture the same opportunities and access as men so that developing communities around the globe can thrive.