The following segment is from an article on women in farming featured in Yes Magazine (4/17/14).
What the numbers show
The number of women who were named as the principal operator of an American farm or ranch increased by nearly 30 percent between 2002 and 2007, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Women composed about 14 percent of principal farm operators in 2007, and that percentage has held steady since then, according to the preliminary 2012 census released in February.
But it’s not just a picture of women farmers barely scraping by. Census data from 2007 showed that women were more likely than men to operate farms with a diversity of crops, and to own a greater percentage of the land they farmed. Women farmers also tended to sell food directly to the consumer rather than to large food-processing corporations—an approach that the United Nations report has found to be important for improving food systems.
While this is interesting, I think it is even more important that the number of women studying sustainable agriculture is significantly greater than the number of men, as seen in this photo from the UMass Student Farm (a class in our undergraduate program). In fact, 60% of the nearly 100 students in the Sustainable Food and Farming Bachelor of Sciences degree program in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass self-identify as women. Many of these students have participated in the local Women in Agriculture Network which has partnered with Holistic Management International to offer farm planning advice and education. It is just as important that there is equal gender representation among our instructors in the Sustainable Food and Farming program!
Back to the article
Referring to the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, the article states….
…the network has been expanding its ranks to provide much-needed camaraderie for women working in a male-dominated field and education on how to lead the sustainable farming movement. This year’s conference included sessions on marketing, soil health, cooperatives, research and grants, pricing, pesticide drift, and wildlife and watershed management. Sustainability was a common theme.
There is surely something about the concept of sustainability that attract women into farming.