Women in Agriculture 1 Women in Agriculture Heather Heath Dr. Alston April 2010 AGED Women in Agriculture 2 Table of Contents Women Farmers3 One Woman in Agriculture6 Female Agricultural Educators7 Women as Agricultural Extension Agents11 Women in the Public Arena12 History of Women in the FFA15 Women Farmers in Florida16 Women in Agriculture in Arkansas17 Women in Agriculture in Minnesota20 Denise O’Brien22 The Power of Women in Agriculture in Foreign Countries 22 Women Farmers in Africa24 The Future27 Organizations for Women in Agriculture 29 History of Women in Agriculture30 Women in Agriculture 3
Women Farmers Women in agriculture are a diverse, important and often overlooked component of agriculture.
Over the past several years there has been a growing acknowledgement of the important roles women play in agriculture. However, the US is still dominated by white males who are traditionally in charge of decision-making and operation. As of 2002, about 2% of farms were operated by women, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS). Many of the farms operated by women in the United States are small scale farms that earn less than ,000 annually.
(Female Farmer, 2002)
Many women are turning to sustainable and alternative farming because of the difficulties they are facing with traditional agriculture. Women who are Hispanic, African American, and Native American may be especially disadvantaged due to historical and structural racism in farm organizations and federal and state laws in the United States. Today only 1% of farms are operated by African Americans. (Female Farmer, 2002) Many women farm on their own or as partners in the work of family farms.
Women on farms perform household tasks, tend gardens, livestock, and assist in the fields as needed.
Often women help support the farm operations or households through paid farm work for others, or through off-farm and nonfarm businesses or paid employment. (Female Farmer, 2002) Women in Agriculture 4 Agricultural education was predominantly a male profession until recent years. With the number of female agriculture educators rising, the number of female students enrolling in agricultural education programs has risen. A challenge for women agricultural educators is balancing career and family. You have to have a good support system in place at home to travel to state and national FFA events. Buehler, 2008) A Department of Agriculture survey shows that the number of women-owned farms in the United States is growing close to a quarter million. These women have learned that they must be innovative in order to survive on the farm. Females make up nearly forty percent of the half-million members of the National FFA Organization. Many of these females hold key leadership positions in the FFA. (Women in Ag, 2008) For more women to become involved in agriculture gender and social equity must be implemented in AKST (Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology) policies and practices.
Priority must be given to women’s access to education, information, science and technology, and extension services. This will improve women’s access, ownership and control of economic and natural resources. Other things that will help women succeed in agriculture are improving women’s working and living conditions in rural areas, giving priority to technological development policies targeting rural and farm women’s needs and recognizing their knowledge, skills and experience. (2007 Census, 2007) The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows that the role of women is continuing to grow in U.
S. agriculture. Women are running more farms and ranches, operating more land, and producing a greater value of agriculture products than they were five years ago. The 2007 Census Women in Agriculture 5 counted 3. 3 million U. S. farm operators and 30. 2 percent, more than 1 million, were women. The total number of women operators increased 19 percent since 2002. The number of women who were the principal operators of a farm or ranch increased by almost 30 percent. Women are now the principal operators of 14 percent of the nation’s 2. 2 million farms. 2007 Census, 2007) The 2007 Census also indicated that the majority of female farm operators are Caucasian. A growing percent are of other races and ethnicity. The largest number of women minority operators is American Indian, followed by operators who are Hispanic. (2007 Census, 2007) Farms operated by women have proven to be very diverse in what they produce. Women are much more likely than men to operate farmers classified as “other livestock farms,” a category that includes horse farms, or “all other crops,” which includes hay farms.
Men are much more likely to run grain and oilseed farms and beef cattle operations. (2007 Census, 2007) The percentage of women operated farms is highest in the West and in New England. The states with the highest percentage of women principal operators are Arizona with 38. 5 percent, New Hampshire with 29. 7 percent, Massachusetts with 28. 9 percent, Maine with 25. 1 percent and Alaska with 24. 5 percent. (2007 Census, 2007) The states with the lowest percentages of women operators are in the Midwest. Women make up less than 10 percent of all farm operators in four Midwestern states: South Dakota with 7. percent, Nebraska with 8. 4 percent, Minnesota with 9. 1 percent, and Iowa with 9. 1 percent. (2007 Census, 2007) Women in Agriculture 6 One Woman in Agriculture As I conducted research for this paper I began to realize that the history of my career in agriculture was important. I began my career in Agriculture in 1999 as a Horticulture Student at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, NC. I fell in love with plants and knew that this was a career I would never abandon. Horticulture is an extension of agriculture and an extremely challenging career.
Much of the research I have found on agriculture indicates that women are a minority in the field of agriculture and that it can be a difficult career choice for many women. I agree with this. I have had success in the field of agriculture but many of the girls I went to school with are no longer in the field and have gone back to school to do different things. Agriculture and horticulture are generally considered to be careers for men. However, men are not the only ones who can do the job well. My first job out of college was managing a garden center.
This was an extremely interesting job and I learned so much. I then moved to Atlanta Georgia and managed an Interiorscaping Plant Company. I enjoyed the indoor plant business very much and continued to do that for three years. I then moved back to Kinston and began teaching horticulture on a part-time basis. I have taught horticulture at the community college level both part-time and full-time. I decided to begin working on my bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Education three years ago. I have learned so much about the field of agriculture through the classes I have taken at
Women in Agriculture 7 North Carolina A&T. I plan to continue my career in agriculture and hopefully pursue my master’s degree in agriculture as well. Agriculture is an exciting and ever changing career with many options. I am not sure if I want to work in extension or at the high school level when I complete my degree. Both would be wonderful career choices with state benefits and retirement. Whatever I chose it will be in the field of agriculture as I know it is the best career choice for me. Female Agricultural Educators
A study was recently conducted by the University of Georgia to determine facts about women in agricultural education in Georgia. The study found that the average female agricultural educator in Georgia was 32 years old, had never been married or was married with one child, had a Master’s degree and six years of teaching experience. The study also found that the average female agricultural educator had previous experience with FFA or 4-H in high school, had previous experience in some agricultural related industry area, and spent an average of 43 hours per week completing her professional duties.
Females in the study were satisfied with their careers and felt accepted by students, administrators, parents of students and the community. The population of the study was all female agricultural educators in Georgia. The survey was administered and data was collected at local agriculture teachers meetings hosted by the State Department of Education. The study found that 21 percent of agricultural education teachers in Georgia were female. Of the 84 percent that responded to the survey, 43 percent were married and 44 percent had never been married, and 34 percent of them had children. The ages Women in Agriculture 8 f the teachers ranged from 23 to 51 with an average age 32. 45 years. Forty percent of respondents had taught one to five years, 15 percent of respondents had taught six to ten years, 10 percent had taught eleven to fifteen years, 7. 5 percent had taught sixteen to twenty years, and 7. 5 percent had taught over twenty years. (Journal of South, 2006) Fifty one percent of respondents had agricultural education courses in high school and were former members of The National FFA Organization. Sixty-six percent of the respondents had previous experience in some area of the agricultural industry.
Thirty-six percent of the women held Bachelor’s degrees, 44 percent held Masters degrees, 17 percent held Specialist degrees, and 3 percent held doctorate degrees. (Journal of South, 2006) The study found that in addition to spending 22. 5 to 30 hours per week in the classroom, female agricultural education teachers spend an average of 21 hours per week on related activities. The reported spending an average of 7 hours per week on preparing for class, 7 hours per week on FFA activities, 5 hours per week on SAE (supervised agricultural education) activities, 2 hours per week in committee meetings, and 11 hours on other work related activities.
Courses taught by the women in the study were: FFA/Leadership/SAE, Greenhouse Production, Landscape Design, Floral Design, Plant Science, Animal Science, Forestry, Natural Resources, Agricultural Mechanics, Soil Science, Companion Animals, Nursery Production, Agricultural Business/Marketing, Aquaculture and Food Science. (Journal of South, 2006) There is a significant teacher shortage in many states throughout our country. The findings in this study would be a good recruitment tool for programs of agricultural education. Female students looking for a career need to be made aware of the fact that females in Women in Agriculture 9 griculture education are a relatively young group of professionals who value and complete advanced degrees, who work about 43 hours per week, and who have the option to teach a wide variety of topics. (Journal of South, 2006) Agricultural education programs were originally designed for males and have been traditionally male dominated since their creation. When the national FFA Organization was established in 1928, it was a social outlet and club for male students enrolled in Vocational Agriculture classes. Women were not allowed into the program until after the Civil Rights movement.
Vocational Agriculture changed dramatically when women were admitted in 1969. Many male teachers become uncomfortable in dealing with the females in the program as female enrollment continued to increase. The need for female agricultural educators began to increase and agricultural education became a viable career option for women. (Journal of South, 2006) In the early years women found it difficult to break down gender barriers and establish their worth among the men in the industry. Agriculture is considered by the general public to be a male career choice even though the influence of women is far reaching.
Even when women began being accepted into agriculture education, there was still the bias that women were only suited to teach horticulture classes, because employers thought they could not physically handle other agricultural areas, that others would not accept women within other areas, that marriage would end women’s professional careers, and that women would be a distraction for men within the workplace. (Journal of South, 2006) The number of female educators has risen in recent years. Data reveals that 43 percent of the newly qualified potential teachers that graduated in 2001 were female.
In the 2003 Foster’s Women in Agriculture 10 report of national datum, it was estimated that approximately five percent of secondary agriculture teachers were female and the Camp et al. found 22 percent to be female in their survey in 2002. If so many females are being educated to be agricultural education teachers what is happening to the ones that wanted a career in agricultural education after they graduate from college? (Journal of South, 2006) The need for female educators is great in agricultural education because 38 percent of the National FFA Organization’s membership is female.
These females hold more than 50 percent of the state leadership positions across the country. Today agricultural education teachers are teaching, training, developing and working with male and female students on an almost equal basis. (Journal of South, 2006) Foster, Pikkert and Husmann studied self-perception of gender bias among women agriculture educators in 1991 and found that female agriculture teachers were satisfied with their current positions. They also determined through the study that gender bias was a deterrent for women entering the agricultural education profession.
Significant factors that have been found to contribute to the occupational success or failure of a female include: the pressure or support received from co-workers, family members, and friends, and level of perceived discrimination and sexual harassment. The major concern shared by women who teach agricultural education, was acceptance by their co-workers, namely male agricultural educators. Even with these problems, the Foster’s national study conducted in 2001 found that the majority of women in agricultural education loved their work. Journal of South, 2006) Women in Agriculture 11 Women as Agricultural Extension Agents In 2004 female county agents with agricultural program responsibilities consisted of only about 11. 4 percent of the population. A questionnaire was sent to these women and although the majority of them sited a high level of job satisfaction, almost 60 percent felt they had experienced barriers and challenges as a result of their gender. The majority of female county agricultural agents that participated in the survey were married, 68. 1 percent.
Only a little over 50 percent of the subjects reported having children. The majority of the women fell into three age categories: 26-30, 41-45, and 46-50. The ethnicity was mostly Caucasian with 93. 2 percent. Minority populations of Hispanic, African-American, and Native American reported between 1. 3 and 1. 8 percent of the total population. The largest number of respondents reported salaries between $40,000 and $44,000 per year. (Journal of Extension, 2004) The women extension agents reported spending 70 percent of their time working with adults in agricultural programs.
They stated that they spent 18 percent of their time working with 4-H and youth programs. Research indicated that extension agents were involved in assessment, planning, teaching, evaluation, serving on boards and committees, making farm/ranch visits, conducting research, and working with clients, volunteers, media, and the larger community. Sixty eight percent of the female agents held Master’s degrees. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Fifty-seven percent of female extension agents indicated that they felt they had experienced barriers or challenges in their profession due to their gender.
The most common challenges were: lack of acceptance from male colleagues and clients; the need to “prove yourself”; no monitoring or inclusion by male peers; and the “good ole boy system. ” Women in Agriculture 12 Women were also asked to identify any sacrifices they had made to reach their current level of achievement in their career. Most women stated time away from family; lack of personal or social time; the decision to not have more children or to delay having a family; and a firm commitment that the pay offered is too low for the educational requirement of the job.
Almost 85 percent of all respondents reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Women in the Public Arena Now more than ever, farm women are being called upon to educate the public about farm issues and farm life and to represent agriculture in the public policy arena. As the business of producing food and fiber has changed, so have the issues facing rural America. Consumers are showing concern about food safety, the use of farm chemicals, the treatment of farm animals and farming’s effect on the environment.
In many cases, rural women are accepting the responsibility for communicating messages to young people and the non-farm public. (Buehler, 2008) Rural women are very involved in promotional activities. There are several events that are celebrated in various states to bring recognition to farmers and their accomplishments. These are events like National Agriculture Week and National Farm City Week. Organizations celebrate in many different ways from state to state. National Farm City Week is conducted to help bridge the gap between urban and rural populations. Buehler, 2008) The women of the Farm Bureau organization have made special progress in determining and supporting public policy issues. More and more women are serving as directors of their local Women in Agriculture 13 Farm Bureaus and are involved in the policy debates. Farm Bureau’s primary purpose has always been to improve the quality of life in rural communities. Farm Bureau women are not only indirectly involved with this process but a growing number are serving in political leadership positions on the local and state levels. (Female Farmer, 2002) The biggest concern of Farm Bureau is finding ways to attract young farm women.
In many cases, the young farm wife has an off-farm job and is juggling that with raising children and assisting with the farm operations. Farm Bureau is going more to try to shape their programs and activities to fit in with people’s busy schedules. (Female Farmer, 2002) The first female U. S. Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture was put in place during the Bush administration. Ann M. Veneman is the Secretary of Agriculture. She grew up on a peach farm in a small rural community. She has spent much of her career dedicated to food and agriculture issues and advancing sound U. S. farm and food policies. The U. S.
Department of Agriculture which she is head of employees 100,000 people. The U. S. D. A. has many programs. It leads the federal U. S. hunger effort with the Food Stamp, School Lunch, School Breakfast, and the WIC program. It brings housing, modern telecommunications, and safe drinking water to rural America. It is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products. It also helps to ensure open markets for U. S. agricultural products and provides food aid to needy people around the world. (Female Farmer, 2002) Rural women make up one-quarter of the world’s population and in some countries they produce up to 80% of the food.
In the United States there are around 130 cooperatives that are Women in Agriculture 14 owned and run by women. They do everything from growing sweet potatoes, to being quilters, to crabmeat producers, to being weavers. (Female Farmer, 2002) Women are key to addressing the food security and nutrition goals that are central to U. S. and international commitments to cut hunger in half by 2015. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, women grow 70% of the food for family and local consumption. We must ensure that the concerns and needs of rural women are brought into every stage of agricultural development programs. Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) Today, in many parts of the world , there is an increasing trend towards what has been named the “ferminization of agriculture. ” Conflict, the search for paid employment in the cities, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic have all contributed to a rapid decline in the male population in rural areas in Africa. As men’s participation in agriculture declines, the role of women in agricultural production is increasing. (Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) In the spring of 1973, ten women that were majoring in agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison felt a need to unite.
The group included Phyllis Agnew, Sue Hyslop, Emily Uhlenhake, Donna Cooper, Sue Gall, Lois Legatt, Sue Alderman, Barb Lee, Maureen DeBruin, and Patty Prust. They wanted to encourage their personal development to prepare themselves for careers in agriculture. (Women in Ag, 2008) These women formed an organization called the Ag Women’s Cooperative. They sought to form a unified group that would help women in agriculture to achieve their goals and to improve communication among agriculture women, men and faculty. (Women in Ag, 2008) Women in Agriculture 15
In 1974, the name was changed to the Association of Women in Agriculture. An early goal was to find a house for the group. One early challenge of the Association of Women in Agriculture was being recognized by the Ag Hall as being eligible for the Ag living unit grade point traveling trophy. After they were recognized, the Association of Women in Agriculture won the award often. The Association of Women in Agriculture hosted its first National Ag Women’s Conference in 1985. It also organizes an annual career conference. (Women in Ag) History of Women in the FFA
Over the years many state FFA associations allowed girls to become members. However, the national association did not allow female members. In fact, in 1930, at the 3rd National FFA Convention, the all-male delegation amended the organization’s constitution to restrict the membership to boys only. (Ricketts, Stone, Adams, 2008) At this time, many women were full partners on the family farm, working alongside their husbands and sons. The magazine Successful Farming even represented the impact women had on agriculture in 1940 when they had a female farmer on the cover of their magazine.
The picture was of Marguerite Craig who raised chickens and she helped pave the way for the future women in agriculture. (Ricketts, Stone, Adams, 2008) Although girls were allowed to participate in chapter and state FFA activities, they were not admitted to membership in the national organization. Therefore, they could not compete in contests, attend national leadership seminars and programs, nor become national FFA officers. Women in Agriculture 16 In 1967, a resolution was presented at the FFA National Convention to allow girls into the organization. It was defeated.
Two years later in 1969 an amendment was passed allowing full membership rights and benefits to women in FFA. Today the National FFA Organization has more than 450,000 members. Women make up 35 percent of the membership and 47 percent of the leadership. (Ricketts, Stone, Adams, 2008) Women Farmers in Florida Women farmers are making their presence known in Florida. They are changing the way food is grown and sold and even how it tastes. In Homestead, Teena Borek is growing heirloom tomatoes in all shapes and colors to supply Miami’s five-star restaurants and gourmet markets. In Monticello, Dr.
Cynthia Connolly is producing organic muscadine wine in Florida’s only certified organic farm winery. Betty O’Toole of Madison is producing organic herbs and hosting workshops, day internships, and tours of the farms display gardens. (Buehler, 2008) Dr. Cynthia Connolly, who owns and operates Ladybird Organics, a 50-acre organic farm in Monticello, says part of the problem for female farmers is the absence of national support program for small and medium-sized farmers. During the 17 years she has been running her business, she has often been forced to supplement her income with off-farm jobs simply to make ends meet. Buehler, 2008) Creativity is a quality that women farmers seem to possess in abundance. It’s the special something they bring to this once tradition-bound, male-dominated industry. As women become business owners there is a constant stream of new ideas in the agriculture industry. Women are Women in Agriculture 17 not afraid to think outside the box. They are willing to challenge conventional growing methods and marketing techniques. It is no surprise that women are a driving force in alternative and sustainable agriculture. Studies show that women are more likely than men to farm organically and on small acreages.
They are also more likely to farm part time and without the help of large, expensive equipment. (Buehler, 2008) Growing a delicious high-quality product isn’t enough. To succeed in small-scale farming these days you have to be a good marketer. Many small farmers are involved in some form of direct marketing. The farmer’s success ultimately hinges on their ability to build personal, trusting relationships with their customers. . (Buehler, 2008) Since 1985, Florida has recognized women who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s agricultural community through its Women of the Year in Agriculture Award.
Sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority, the award is presented during the opening-day luncheon of the Florida State Fair in Tampa. . (Buehler, 2008) Women in Agriculture in Arkansas The roles women hold in Arkansas agriculture are as diverse as the women themselves. The number of women principal operators grew about 6 percent in Arkansas between 1997 and 2002. There are women who hold prominent positions in firms that support agriculture, such as agricultural lending institutions, farm input suppliers, veterinary/animal clinics, and agricultural processors. Female Farmer, 2002) Women in Agriculture 18 To respond to the increase in women involved in agriculture, researchers need to understand the challenges women face and the goals they hold so as to be successful in their business endeavors. Three conferences were recently held for Arkansas women in agriculture with the goal of enriching lives and empowering women in Arkansas in all aspects of agriculture including production, processing, marketing and retailing. Of the 754 female conference attendees, 344 agreed to participate in survey research that examined their roles, challenges and successes. Female Farmer, 2002) Of the 344 participants in the survey, 54 were principal farm operators, 156 were agribusiness owners, and 134 were farm/business employees. Most principle operators were involved in livestock production, but some also listed rice, soybean, cotton, forest and vegetable production. Agribusiness owners included farm input supply, medical services, marketing services, and credit services. (Female Farmer, 2002) Three factors explain why women’s importance in agriculture in Arkansas is growing. First, more women in the state are inheriting these operations due to death, divorce, and illness.
Second, women are making voluntary career changes into agriculture, beginning with small-scale production and increasing land base and production each year. Third, more women are choosing college programs that prepare them for important positions in agricultural industries. At the University of Arkansas, the number of female agriculture graduates grew by 50 percent between 1997 and 2005. Women are feeling confident in their roles in agriculture. When as whether they would keep their business in the event of their life partner, 77 percent said definitely yes. Women in Agriculture 19
When women in Arkansas were asked to gauge their success they focused more on individual growth and community then on traditional profit measures. When asked about 13 ways to measure success, these women chose ability to apply talents and skills directly to their work, being excited about their work, trying new ways of doing things, being involved in their communities, and improving their family’s standard of living as the most important measures of success. (Female Farmer, 2002) The women were also asked about 13 challenges that they might face in their work.
Being respected as a female business owner and keeping good employees were the largest challenges faced by all women. (Female Farmer, 2002) The research indicated that Arkansas women are involved in every aspect of agriculture and their influence is growing. While some common measures of success and challenges were identified, the results suggest that different types of agricultural women hold different attitudes about business and face different challenges. (Female Farmer, 2002) There are approximately 300,000 women farm operators across the United States, which is over 17% of the family farmer population.
This is the largest group of minority farmers in the country, and their number is growing. An estimated 43,000 of these farmers have been discriminatorily denied more than $4. 6 billion in farm loans and loan servicing from the USDA over the years. Many women were told that money or applications had run out, even though men seemed to be finding them with no trouble at all. Others were told to return to the loan office with their fathers, or husbands, or brothers, so that the men could file the applications on their Women in Agriculture 20 behalf.
And some were even subjected to crude and horrible advances by loan administrators, who demanded a sexual quid pro quo in return for approving their loans. (Buehler, 2008) Women in Agriculture in Minnesota Women have farmed alongside their husbands and families since people started cultivating the land. Native Americans were the first women farmers in Minnesota. Historians agree that the success of the American family farm was dependent on the help of women. Research shows that women have been filing the roles of farmers in their own right, farm manager or partner than society gives them credit for. Women in Ag, 2008) As many as 2,400 women homesteaded their farm in Minnesota without a husband between 1863 and 1889. These women were in addition to the thousands of other women that farmed alongside their husbands or families as Minnesota was settled. Women were often left to manage their farms as husbands went off to war, prospecting, and serving in government or when their husbands moved to town or back East to earn money. In the 2002 Census of Agriculture 6,370 women were reported as principal operators. This represents 7. % of the total number of principal operators. (Women in Ag, 2008) Restructuring of the farm economy has had an effect on women’s exposure to agricultural tasks. In the past, during times of economic crisis, farm women increased participation in alternative agricultural enterprises, such as chicken and egg production to provide additional income. Research indicates that farm women do not have the same access to transfer of knowledge that men do. A major constraining factor for transfer of knowledge was the attitudes Women in Agriculture 21 arents held about what was acceptable farm work for girls. People reported that sons were given more opportunities to learn about farming than daughters were. Others report that daughters were less likely to be taught about tractors as well. (Women in Ag, 2008) Women in agriculture make tremendous contributions to American society, especially within rural communities. Their involvement on the farm is expanding to include more decision making and hands-on participation, and these roles have opened the door for many more women to become farmers.
In the mid 1980s, educators began to notice the changing role of American women in agriculture and began to host more conferences for women. These programs represent the first step in meeting the needs of women in agriculture. (Women in Ag, 2008) Women are also venturing off the farm to provide additional income for the household and to give leadership to and participate in organizations that support regional agriculture in rural communities. The 2002 Census of Agriculture showed a 40% increase in the number of women operators in the last decade.
The organizations that farm women participate in give them the skills and networking opportunities needed to help their farmers succeed. Even though women often met separately from men in agricultural organizations and did not hold leadership positions in the early years, they are still vital members of the organizations today. The number of women receiving agriculture-related degrees has more than doubled since 1993, to reach 28,801 degrees given to females in 2000. (Women in Ag, 2008) Women in Agriculture 22 Denise O’Brien Denise O’Brien is a passionate advocate for family farms and sustainable agriculture.
She has been farming organically in Iowa for 30 years with her husband. She served as president as the National Family Farm Coalition from 1993 to 1995. Her interest in farm issues led her to travel with delegates Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Seeing only a few women speaking out about agriculture, Denise addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on behalf of farmers. She also founded the Women’s Farming and Agriculture Network in 1994. The organization works to connect and inspire American women who are building all aspects of a sustainable food system. Women in Ag, 2008) One of the most helpful developments for women working in agriculture today is the advent of women’s agricultural networks. These groups aim to increase the number of women who own and operate profitable farms and farm related businesses. The networks sponsor meetings, workshops, and tours focused on education. Members also help each other overcome obstacles by sharing their experiences. They offer mentors and resources for new farmers and others who need help. (Women in Ag, 2008) The Power of Women in Agriculture in Foreign Countries
Around the globe the typical farmer is a woman and not a man. This is particularly true in poor countries, where agriculture is mostly women’s work. It is estimated that rural women produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in developing countries, and they are primarily responsible Women in Agriculture 23 for their families for security and nutrition. In parts of Africa women produce 80 percent of the food supply. However, they receive less than 10 percent of the credit going to farms and own an estimated 2 percent of the land.
Research also indicates that when women earn extra income they are more likely than men to invest in education, food and health care for their children. This creates a positive cycle of growth and may help lift and entire generation out of poverty. Helping women farmers access the resources they need to grow food and other crops is crucial to ending hunger, improving child nutrition, and helping many poor economies grow. (Women in Ag, 2008) In 1999 the national and provincial departments of agriculture began celebrating the role of women in agriculture. Each year, top female farmers are honored in the Female Farmer of the Year competition.
The project was initiated by the national Department of Agriculture to empower women in agriculture by recognizing their contributions and increasing their visibility. The National Female Farmer of the Year event is a combination of six months of intensive work undertaken in the provinces to mobilize women at grassroots level to participate in nominating their peers for the awards with the assistance of the cooperative extension workers. Individuals and groups are nominated in three categories. The first is top producer for the export market and she must export more than 50 percent of her production.
The second is top producer for national markets and they must have an impressive quality of production on the local market. The third is top producer for informal markets and they must produce an impressive quality of produce to support their household and must be economically active. An overall winner is also picked from the three national winners. (Female Farmer, 2002) Women in Agriculture 24 Women Farmers in Africa The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network is sponsoring a three year pilot project to help rural women farmers influence agricultural policy development in southern Africa.
Funding for the program is provided by a $900,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) The project seeks to strengthen women farmers’ ability to advocate for appropriate agricultural policies and programs. The goal is for women farmers to have access to the tools that help farm more successfully, such as access to credits and better seeds, by ensuring that local and national policies and services address their needs. (Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) In Africa, the majority of rural farmers are women.
Research demonstrates women are often excluded from the decision-making process and local governance. By empowering women farmers to advocate for their concerns this project aims to ensure women farmers have what they need to increase their income and provide for their families. Women have little access to land, seed, fertilizer, credit, and technology. Due to a combination of logistical, cultural and economic factors, they are often not able to benefit fully from development programs and services. Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) Women’s agriculture jobs in developing countries cover production, processing, preparation, and preservation of foodstuffs and other farm products. They are also often responsible for marketing produce from the farm. Women in most parts of the world have a longer working day than men and so lack of time can be a major cause of declining food Women in Agriculture 25 production. Women may work up to 18 hours per day in busy seasons. It is no surprise that women in developing countries in their reproductive years have health worse than that of men.
The roles of women farmers in Nigeria vary considerably by ethnic group. The Hausa Fulani women do little work in the fields because of the plough/grain culture and the restrictions on women of the Islamic religion. The well-to-do urban Muslim women in seclusion do not engage in agricultural work of some kind. Poor Muslim women are heavily involved in agricultural work in food processing and preparation. The Yoruba women are becoming more and more involved in agricultural work with the increase of cash crop production and the expansion of food production and raw materials for industry.
The Ibo women play a dominant role in food production. Most women’s work in agriculture is unpaid, but some women are employed as agricultural laborers. In the Philippines, women play a major role in agriculture, mostly as unpaid family workers or self-employed farmers. The crops with the largest number of women workers are rice, coconut and banana. Women in the Caribbean are responsible for more than 50 percent of food production and are also involved in food processing and marketing, including inter-island marketing. Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) The WFAN is a pilot project to develop “Women’s Learning Circles” in three counties in eastern Iowa. The project is called “Women Caring for the Land”. The original goal, to directly improve water quality by educating and empowering women landowners to enact their own values for conservation of the land. At least three women who participated in the project made significant changes in the way their land was farmed. Several women made appointments with their District Conservationists to go over their conservation plans or to have farm visits.
Women in Agriculture 26 Women are interested in learning new agriculture information in many ways. They expressed a desire to hold frequent meetings where they could meet face to face to focus on relevant single topics rather than covering several topics at once. The women preferred meeting at tables in small groups of 6-8 to foster discussion. Many of the women stated that they enjoyed learning in the company of other women. They felt that limiting participation to women would create a supportive atmosphere. They also stated that they would like to listen to women presenters.
They wanted to hear from women farmers, farm wives, managers, marketers, conservationists, bookkeepers, and community college teachers. Women expressed the desire to be interactive in meeting. The women also wanted to exchange stories with their peers to create stronger social bonds. The women suggested meeting in peaceful places such as nature centers, retreats, and community center. Finally, they mentioned that child care support would be helpful to them allowing them to attend meetings. (Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) In the Philippines, women control 79% of street enterprises.
In Senegal, 53% of vendors are women. Due to the socio-economic status of women and their traditional gender roles, they dominate informal sector of which urban agriculture is part. Urban agriculture has become an important survival strategy of the poor who are mostly women. Even though women face lack of extension services, lack of land, and the practice being considered illegal, they are not willing to stop farming in the city. Women participate in urban agriculture as a means of income diversification to contribute to the food consumed by their families.
It is clear that urban agriculture improves women’s socio-economic status in a number of ways. It gives them a chance to participate in decision-making, improves their economic status and enables them to acquire independent income. (Women Thrive Worldwide, 2010) Women in Agriculture 27 The Future To enable urban farmers to benefit and improve their socio-economic status, the Urban Authority Act that governs land-use practices in the city should be amended to incorporate urban agriculture as an important informal sector. Buehler, 2008) Women’s roles in society continue to change. Women have always played an important, yet often unrecognized role in agriculture. As families and communities face an ever changing world, agriculture and women’s positions in this sector need more critical attention. There is variability among women farmers, and there is a need to develop a better understanding of their place within society, in agriculture and particularly within the broader population of traditionally underserved farmers, including small-scale, limited resource and minority producers.
In a 2001 national survey of women on farms conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, 30 percent were full partners and 40 percent were involved as business managers or helpers. Census data shows that women’s participation in farm programs has increased as well. A qualitative/quantitative study of women farmers in Minnesota suggests that there is a tendency for some women producers to be involved in agricultural activities outside of the mainstream of the dominant forms of agriculture and to express interest in conservation-oriented and alternative enterprises.
Investigations of women’s participation in the move toward conservation and sustainable agriculture suggest that they are likely to pursue improvement of quality of life for their families and communities as a main goal. (Buehler, 2008) Women in Agriculture 28 Approximately half of women in the research project conducted in 2001 and 2003 held off the farm jobs, while just over one-third of participants in the women in agriculture project reported the same status. Over 60 percent of participants in both the risk management survey and the most recent focus groups reported that their spouse worked an off-farm job. Buehler, 2008) In an exercise where women in agriculture focus group participants were asked to identify themselves as farmers, farm wife or friend of a farmer, a large majority of them indicated that they thought of themselves as farmers. When asked how they began farming, 70. 6 percent of women focus group participants indicated that they grew up on a farm. One-quarter of participants indicated that they had inherited a farm. Nearly half of the focus group participants said that their spouse farmed. Eighty-five percent of the participants stated that they made decisions about farm management. Buehler, 2008) When women were asked about barriers they faced in trying to achieve their goals, they identified several problems. They included limited access to the expertise needed for many entrepreneurial marketing endeavors. Some people also stated that they did not receive adequate support from their families. (Buehler, 2008) Women farmers emphasized the need for more respect for their position in agriculture among family members, community residents, organizational representatives and government agencies.
The women in every group expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together for a group reflection on issues they faced in agriculture. They wanted more networking opportunities at the local, state, regional and national levels, and interest was expressed in more research. (Buehler, 2008) Women in Agriculture 29 Organizations for Women in Agriculture In 2009 an organization and website was established for women farmers called The Women Farmers. All members are women who own, run or operate farms, from the small farm that sells at the local farmers market to the huge farms that are thousands of acres.
The website is http://womenfarmers. org/ . (Women in Ag, 2008) American Agri-Women officially began November 14, 1974. Today, American Agri-Women has 50 state and commodity affiliate organizations as well as individual member throughout the country, representing tens of thousands of women involved in agriculture. Throughout the history of AAW, the members have been actively involved and making a difference in legislative and regulatory matters at the local, state, and national levels.
They have also been instrumental in student and consumer education about agriculture, having initiated the Agriculture in the Classroom program at the national level. (Women in Ag, 2008) The Women’s Agricultural Network uses educational, technical assistance and networking opportunities to increase the number of women owning and operating profitable farms and ag-related businesses, as well as their profile in leadership positions throughout the agricultural sectors of business, government and community. (Women in Ag, 2008) Women in Agriculture is the USDA’s resource for women involved in agricultural activities in the U.
S. The Website offers links to the Third International Conference on Women in Agriculture and other USDA organizations. (Women in Ag, 2008) Women in Agriculture 30 History of Women in Agriculture As early as 1903, more than fifteen states were offering “institutes” especially for women. Early organizations for women in the Midwest, called “domestic science associations,” were formed to teach better methods in the home and to promote domestic science in the schools. Other names for these organizations included neighborhood study clubs, homemaker clubs, farm women clubs, and home bureaus. Journal of Extension, 2004) The first home demonstration clubs associated with Extension in the South developed from the girl’s tomato clubs, the home demonstration agents took advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate improved methods of housework. The success of this method of teaching rural America gained support for a national system of Extension work. The agricultural colleges and experiment stations requested federal funds for an Extension unit of the land-grant system through the American Association of Agriculture Colleges. Journal of Extension, 2004) When World War I was declared, large numbers of men joined the service. By 1916 over 3,000,000 men had joined the army. The country was desperately short of labor. The Government decided that more women would have to become more involved in producing food and goods to support the war effort. It was suggested that as reward for their effort, women would he given the right to vote after the war. Over 250,000 women became farm labors during the war. In some areas, farmers were unwilling to employ women.
In 1916 the Board of Trade began sending agricultural organizing officers around the country in an effort to persuade farmers to accept women workers. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Women in Agriculture 31 At St. Michael’s Parish Hall in Sussex, Miss Bradley, agricultural organizing officer for the Board of Trade, said that Sussex had been one of the best countries for recruiting for the army and navy, and she hoped that with the cooperation of the farmers it would occupy a similar position with regard to women working on the land and filling the places of the men who had gone to war.
She believed that the home grown food supply would be a quarter below the average that year. She realized that the difficulties and prejudices were being gradually overcome and that when farmers realized that women could do useful work they would accept their service more and more readily. Women were proving that they could perform useful work- in offices, in ammunition work, and in assisting in tarring and repairing roads. On farms, too, they could be of great assistance. Three pence an hour was the minimum wage for untrained helpers.
In March of 1864, two years after the creation of the USDA, the Commissioner received authority to employ women as clerks. By 1891, there were 169 women in the USDA, which was roughly 12 percent of the employees. Legal changes in the 1960s and 1970s began to open more opportunities for women. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Women operators are generally full owners of their farms and live on their property. Many inherited the farms as widows and chose to continue the family business.
Beginning in 1982, the average age of women farmers began to decrease and by 1997 more than 40 percent were under 55 years old. More women are making the choice to own and manage their own farms, and one of the goals of NIFA’s goals is to provide them with the tools they need to succeed. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Women in Agriculture 32 Nearly half of these women regard farming as their primary occupation, though the financial rewards are not great. Most women-owned farms are small, diversified, and financially at-risk.
Nearly 70 percent of them have less than 140 acres, nearly 80 percent report annual sales under $25,000, and they are more likely than other farms to raise livestock or high-value crops. NIFA addresses the special needs of women and other minority farmers through core funding to support research, education, and extension at the land-grant colleges, and through competitive funding opportunities such as the Agriculture Risk Management Education and Funding Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.
An example of the program is the North Central Risk Management Education Center at the University of Illinois. Center funding and coordination have generated extension programs in all 12 states across the region focusing on the needs of women in agriculture, working with women to identify the specific risks they face, and providing them with the necessary information and tools to overcome these risks. (Journal of Extension, 2004) The programs include educational workshops and online information and networking through the “Heart of the Farm” project in Wisconsin.
The education center also sponsors annual Women in Agriculture conferences in South Dakota, and grass roots Risk Management Clubs led by women farmers in Nebraska. (Journal of Extension, 2004) The “Women in Ag” program at the University of Nebraska provides risk management education to women farmers, giving them the tools and information they need to make informed decisions. NIFA funding recently supported the program’s 19th Women in Ag Conference and the expansion of the program’s networking capacity. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Women in Agriculture 33
In several northeastern states, Women in Agriculture Networks provide education, technical assistance, and networking opportunities to increase the number of women owning and operating profitable farms and agriculture-related businesses. While these programs are closely tied to their state extension office, they are often strengthened by collaboration with other agencies. (Journal of Extension, 2004) Conclusion Women working in agriculture are not a new concept. Women have been helping on the farm since the beginning of civilization.
Many women who work in agriculture fields are extremely satisfied with their careers. However, women face many challenges in agriculture. Women are interested in more studies and more support from society. The USDA must provide better outreach, technical assistance and other forms of support to women farmers. The future is bright for women in agriculture. Women in Agriculture 34 References Small Farm Digest. (2008). Women in Agriculture. Retrieved March 5, 2010 http://www. csrees. usda. gov/newsroom/newsletters/smallfarmdigest/sfd_sp08. pdf
Journal of Extension. (2004). A Profile of Female County Agricultural Agents in Today’s CES. Retrieved March 5, 2010. http://www. joe. org/joe/2004december/a3. php Female Farmer, (2002). A Celebration of Women in Agriculture. Retrieved March 5, 2010. http://www. nda. agric. za/docs/ff2002-2. pdf Women Thrive Worldwide. (2010). Women Feed the World. Retrieved March 6, 2010. http://www. womenthrive. org/index. php? opinion=com_content&tas=view&id=654&Itemid=174 Ricketts, John C, Stone, Rhonda, Adams, Elaine. (2006) Female Agricultural Educators in Georgia.
Retrieved March 6, 2006. http://pubs. aged. tamu. edu/jsar/pdf/Vol56/56-01-052. pdf | America’s Heartland. (2008). Women in Ag. Retrieved May 7, 2010. http://www. americasheartland. org/episodes/episode_319/women_agriculture. html Buehler, Deb Brandt. (2008). The Evolving Role of Women in Agricultural Education. Retrieved May 7, 2010. http://www. ffa. org/ageducators/mad/issues/0804/story3. cfm 2007 Census of Agriculture. (2007). Women Farmers. Retrieved March 7, 2010. http://www. agcensus. usda. gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/Fact_Sheets/women. pdf