Growing Farmers: Women in Agriculture

Whether working on a farm or ranch, or in an ag-related position, women are making a big impact in agriculture. A lot has changed over the last 10-15 years and women are playing a crucial role in initiating new ideas on farms and ranches across the U.S.

According to a report by the USDA, the share of U.S. farms operated by women has nearly tripled over the past three decades. When secondary operators are counted, the number of female farmers increases to one million – or about 30 percent of all U.S. farmers. We asked women ag leaders to weigh in on what resources they find helpful, and what we can do to encourage the next generation of women farmers. 

Check Out a Wide Variety of Opportunities

Whether through growing up on the farm and fostering a desire to stay there, or developing an interest through career exploration programs, more women than ever before are pursuing careers in agriculture. Female farmers and ranchers are a part of the largest growing segment of people working in agriculture. For those who don’t want to work on the farm or ranch, but do want to work in ag, alternative career opportunities are plentiful. Careers can range from Veterinarian to Food Science specialists, Horticulturists to Agribusiness and Communications, and more. In fact, as many as one in three people work in agriculture worldwide, and as many as one third of those people are women. Because the field is so diverse, more women than ever before are pursuing careers in agriculture and creating their own career path and lending their own unique talents.

Because women are playing a more active role, there are many resources that have been developed exclusively to support women as they carve their niche. Programs designed for women work to address some of their unique questions and challenges.

Helpful Resources for Women in Ag

  •  American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership program -- The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership (AFBWL) program engages women with the training and education they need to become powerful advocates for today’s agriculture. The program provides women with leadership training, communication skills, and networking to strengthen their ability to encourage positive change in their communities and in the agricultural industry.
  • The USDA’s Women, Land, and Legacy program – This outreach program connects women with resources for making informed decisions for their land and communities. It creates a bridge between government, non-profit organizations, faith based and community groups.
  • FarmHER – FarmHer connects, inspires, and empowers women in agriculture. Whether it be online, on the farm or ranch, or at an event, this organization brings women together to build a better understanding of how their lifestyles improve the world around them.
  • Annie’s Project – This nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational programs designed to strengthen women’s roles in the modern farm enterprise. Annie’s Project fosters problem solving, record keeping, and decision-making skills in farm women. 

Forming a network doesn’t need to mean a formal set of membership requirements. These women in Wisconsin have developed a local support system that started as a simple potluck where they get together share information and tour one another’s farms. These loosely-organized networks have sprouted business partnerships and resource-sharing opportunities. They serve as an example of what can be accomplished by teaming up and working together.

Nurturing Early Interest

Whether your daughter is an animal lover, an avid gardener, or someone who loves to cook, you may have a future ag professional on your hands. In other words, people don’t need to grow up on the family farm or ranch to have a career in agriculture. Because careers in agriculture are so diverse, a small interest can develop into a fulfilling career path. If you think your child may have an interest in an ag-related field, introducing them to 4-H or FFA programs may help them explore or develop that interest and see a viable future career for themselves. 

Supporting the Next Generation

The opportunities for women in agriculture are growing. Whether you have a family background, or simply want to explore, there are career pathways to suit just about any interest. Finding hands-on opportunities and classes to support an interest has been said to be the best way to learn and create connections.

Looking for more ways to support an interest in agriculture? Get involved in your local Farm Bureau and take part in activities at a local level.