Apr 05, 2011
Last week National Public Radio/NPR posted a story written by Kathleen Masterson of Harvest Public Media about the recent growth of women owner/operators in farming. According to the story women now run around 14 % of the Nation’s farms. These farms aren’t rows of corn and beans for the most part. Instead the majority of women owned farms are diverse and often include livestock. Many of the farms fuel the ever growing local and organic movements.
Often women who grew up on farms with a passion for farming resented their brothers and cousins because they were forced to stay inside. A friend of mine loved to swath hay as a young girl. During that time (the 60s and 70s) her grandfather was of the impression that girls were not to do the farm work. Her brothers and cousins got to do it all and each time he caught her on a swather she received a lecture. Her plea… "I love the swathing and the boys don’t. Just let me do it!" Her brothers now run their dairy farm and her son’s wife is actively involved in the dairy farm they own.
What has changed over the past few decades that made it ok for women to be owner/operators? I don’t believe that the feminist movement made a mark on agriculture but maybe I’m wrong. One of my college classmates recently moved back to the farm after graduation and is farming with her dad. Her fiancé works off the farm and is completely supportive of her making the farming decisions. I feel fortunate that my generation has been given the opportunity to make a career in agriculture regardless of gender, but have we really?
Agriculture is still a man’s world and although women are "allowed to farm," are they held to a higher standard than men? A story in TIME magazine reported that women in general business often feel the need to achieve more, work harder and excel at faster speeds because they are women working in a male dominated world. Is that really fair? Should women have to feel extra pressure simply because they have longer hair? I’m thankful that women across the country are feeling free to farm, but I’m not sure that we have truly reached equality yet.