Monday, January 25, 2016

More women are becoming farmers; 30% of farms are female-operated, up from 5% in 1978

About 30 percent of all principal and secondary farm operators—one million total—are women, up from five percent in 1978 and 14 percent in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Elizabeth Zach reports for The Washington Post.
"Researchers have observed some possible reasons why more women are farming and ranching. Some women regard themselves less as entrepreneurs and more as gentle stewards of the land or bulwarks against corporations overtaking family farms and developers sweeping in with seductive offers. Others are drawn to the farm-to-fork movement, where locally grown produce and meat hold much greater appeal. Also, more women are inheriting farms and ranches." (Post photo by Mark Holm: Laura Jean Schneider runs a farm in New Mexico)

Breanne Wroughton, program assistant for the California Farm Academy at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, Calif., told Zach that "downsizing and mechanization have also made the work more affordable and less physically demanding—although 'smaller parcels tend to require more physical labor because they are typically managed using hand tools and practices.'"

USDA says "women who identified themselves as earning their primary income from farming or ranching run the gamut in terms of what they produce," Zach writes. "They raise cattle, sheep, poultry, pigs and goats in the West and Midwest. They are viticulturists—or, as they refer to themselves at times, 'vit-chicks'—who nurture malbec and pinot noir grapes in California, Washington and Oregon. They grow lavender, melons and seemingly every other delicacy under the sun. Some have taken on teaching roles and find that more and more women are joining their ranks." (Read more)

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