Top Producer Editor Jeanne Bernick, left, leads a panel discussion with Celeste Settrini, Christine Hamilton and Pam Johnson, all successful women in agriculture.
New event focuses on the 1 million women farm operators in the U.S.
The facts about women in agriculture don’t get reported that often: of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators, more than 30%—1 million—are women, according to census data. The total number of women oper-ators has increased 20% from 2002, and today more than 75% of women operators are full owners of their land.
In an effort to support women in farming, Top Producer held its first-ever Executive Women in Agriculture (EWA) event in December. More than 130 women farm owners and operators from 25 states gathered in Chicago to network and hone their business skills.
Christine Hamilton owns and operates a 14,000-acre farm and ranch in Kimball, S.D. She joined a panel discussion about the challenges and successes of women executives in agriculture.
Hamilton says she has always had a deep connection to the land, which has motivated her to spend her life in agriculture.
Agriculture is not always an easy field for women, Hamilton says. "There’s a problem of being taken seriously, and our negotiating skills may not be as valued." But, she says, over time you can develop respect.
Her advice for young women producers is to develop critical thinking skills and focus on being curious about new possibilities.
Pam Johnson serves as vice president of the National Corn Growers Association and will soon become the group’s first female president. She farms in Floyd, Iowa.
"There’s a price to pay for being a strong woman," she says. But that doesn’t mean you should be discouraged. She suggests waking up each day focused on meeting challenges, whether they are big or small. "Treat them as an opportunity and adventure, instead of something to be dreaded."
Johnson says life on the farm can be kind of isolated. "It’s very important as life gets more
and more demanding that you have good mentors. Surround yourself with really strong and smart
people," she advises.
Celeste Settrini, a fresh vegetable commodity broker and partner in her family farm in Salinas, Calif., says she came to EWA to learn from like-minded women. "Agriculture is an extension of who I am," she says, and "women are great cheerleaders for one another."
- January 2012