By Melissa Miller, NFU Director of Education
As National Farmers Union’s education director, I am lucky enough to travel the country to visit with dozens of women in agriculture every year. From Virginia to Oklahoma, Oregon to Wisconsin, these women never cease to amaze me with their innovative ideas and consistent hard work.
I see women who are working full-time and farming full-time while also raising a family. I am in awe of the women who are making strides in agritourism, value-added products, and sustainability. Agriculture is filled with women who are experts in networking, community building, and telling their stories.
But I also see women who struggle to buy equipment or take out loans. Women who have to explain that they, and not their brothers, fathers, or husbands, are the owners of their farms. Women who are constantly fighting to find their place in agriculture because the average American farmer is a 59-year-old man.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2012 Census of Agriculture, 31% of American farmers are women. These nearly 1 million women cultivate 301, 386, 860 acres with a $12.9 billion impact. The numbers are even more significant when considered globally, with women making up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries.
The issue of women in agriculture, like that of beginning farmers, is accompanied with complications and controversy. But as we navigate these waters, I would strongly encourage producers to also be open to the inspiration that this topic can offer. The average producer is starting to change and shift in many new and exciting ways.
Women in agriculture is one of my favorite topics, and not just because I am a very proud FarmHer, but also because women are making moves in agriculture like never before.
To connect with other NFU Women in Agriculture, visit our Facebook Page here, and stay tuned on the Beginning Farmers Forum as we continue to discuss the important role women play in the future of agriculture.