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Women in Agriculture – From Farm Wife to Partner

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Ann FinknerMarch is Women’s History Month. This year’s theme – “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment” – is one that rings true for women involved in agriculture and with Farm Credit.

Women have played an important role in agriculture’s history – from tending to the gardens that provided food for their families to serving as bookkeepers for the operations. And when there was a need for additional labor, women were actively involved in caring for livestock and helping with the harvest. For decades, however, women were viewed as simply the behind-the-scene sidekicks to their husbands who planted seed, fixed equipment and fed livestock. In fact, the USDA did not ask the gender of farm operators until 1978. Thus, until that point, women were “nonexistent” in the data collections and reports.

But the mindset is changing as more women enter the ag industry and take over operations. The 2012 Ag Census shows that 14 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million principal operators were women. You can see further evidence of women taking on agricultural leadership roles in the USDA’s Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms report. And you can hear some of our own Farm Credit leaders talk about the progression of female farmers in our latest Farm Credit First Person video.

For those still working to break through the "grass ceiling" of agriculture, there are several education, networking and partnerships available:


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