Agriculture at its roots is designed to take care of three basic needs: Food, clothing, and shelter. It’s the practice of cultivating natural resources to sustain life.
Sound like anyone you know? It should, because the future of ag is increasingly female.
Ag combines the creativity, imagination and skill involved in planting crops and raising animals with modern production methods and shifting technology. According to this report from the USDA, the output of U.S. farms contributed nearly $165 billion to the national GDP from 2011-2021.
And now more than ever, women are leading the charge.
Women in Ag
The role of women in agriculture is continuously evolving. According to Farmland.org, nearly 388 million acres, or 43% of U.S. farmland, is now farmed or co-farmed by women. Additionally, according to the UN, women also make up 43% of the entire global agricultural labor force.
From managing finances and leading marketing initiatives to working out in the fields and milking cows each morning, females play a very active role in agriculture and continue to contribute to strong growth in American farming.
Many women are pursuing agricultural education after high school and several hold important leadership positions, conduct important research to produce new plant varieties, and even advocate for animal welfare reform and regenerative practices.
What’s Working for Women
Thanks to modern advancements, agriculture today tends to have fewer physical demands and farmers have the ability to rely more on technology and automation than ever before.
As a result, women-run farms trend toward specialty crops with one-to-one direct markets. These farms tend to be smaller operations, but often run with more farm-to-table sales and take on a personal selling approach.
Women across the country looking for work in the food and ag industries can also count on Good Food Jobs, a leading job board led by Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle. In addition to employment listings, they also take a stand for women everywhere by requiring fair wages and inclusive practices for every job they list.
Kerry Diamond has made it her work to bring it all together. She’s the founder of Cherry Bombe, a multimedia powerhouse celebrating and championing women in ag-related fields with a highly successful magazine, podcasts, cookbooks, events, and unique membership opportunities.
Gender Bias in Food and Ag
Like many industries, gender bias persists in agriculture worldwide. National Geographic reports that despite women working more hours per year than men, women earn significantly less from their farms, upwards of 30% less.
Many factors contribute to this disparity, from age-old land rights to a lack of training and education, but the greatest of these continues to be inequality and women being viewed as less capable than their male counterparts. While the U.S. has made strides to bridge the gap, there’s still much that can be done to realize the potential of female farmers.
Furthermore, the American Farmland Trust launched a Women for the Land program that makes it easy for women to connect, collaborate and learn from each other. They also focus on learning and research initiatives and policy advocacy.
Financing a Female-led Farm
Having access to credit and financial services in these challenging economic times is crucial for the success of a farm.
New farmers and agribusiness operators face steep startup costs and access to capital for land, equipment, and other inputs is critical. On top of these expenses, financial needs such as fertilizer, hay, and fuel are fundamental to the operation.
These expenditures paired with everyday family living expenses can cut into a farm’s cash flow and working capital needs. All of these costs coupled with rate fluctuations in the industry can add up quickly.
To make it all work, agriculture loans can be a vital resource. Finding a lending partner that understands your farm’s unique needs and can provide support throughout the life of a loan has never been more important.
There are several resources and grants available specifically for women in agriculture, from those that have been farming their whole life to first-time farmers.
To connect with a local partner who knows the industry and understands the complicated needs you face, fill out this contact form or call me at (417) 672-2572.
OMB and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decision.
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