Ever heard the saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman”? Turns out, when it comes to agriculture, that may not be completely true.
Today, more than ever, women are increasingly standing in front of men — or even on their own — in their family farming operations.
Women in agriculture isn’t exactly new to the industry. For centuries, women have worked ground, hauled grain, baled hay, milked cows and cared for livestock just like their male counterparts. The only difference now is, rather than husbands or fathers owning the land and making primary management decisions as they did in years past, women are stepping into those roles.
My mom is one of those women.
Yes, my family owns and operates an equine operation, and I’m aware that most people don’t consider that to be a traditional farming operation. But, just like a traditional farming operation, my family has built our operation from a small herd of grade horses to a large operation with more than 30 head of registered Paint and Quarter Horses. And, it was a woman — my mom — who built it into a business that provides income to our family.
And, she isn’t alone — inside the equine industry and outside of it. In fact, according to an article in the most recent issue of Progressive Farmer, 14 percent of U.S. farms count a female as the primary operator. If you add joint operators to that list, 30 percent of farms have women making management decisions.
The next agriculture census, which is set for 2013, could show another increase in the number of female-mananged and -owned operations if it follows lending trends released by the Farm Service Agency (FSA).
According to the FSA, it made 3,553 loans to women in 2011, a 31 percent jump from 2006 figures. If that number doesn’t stop you in your tracks, maybe this one will: That’s 86 percent more loans than were issued to women in 2001.
The same trends follow in youth agriculture organizations as well. According to the National FFA Organization, about 43 percent of its membership are women, but those women hold half of the state leadership positions. And, 4-H is much the same, with 53 percent of its membership being female.
As a chick myself, I think that’s pretty awesome. Pretty awesome because it couldn’t have been easy for the ladies to step into a man’s world and get after it. And, pretty awesome because they blazed the trail for the rest of us ladies in agriculture today.
So, cheers to all of the ladies out there baling hay, planting corn, making breeding decisions, pulling calves, making purchasing decisions and throwing their all into managing successful operations.
We think you’re all jolly good fellows, er, ladies.