BlogBolster Regional Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture

Empowering Women in Agriculture: Strategies & Stories

By April 8, 2024April 11th, 2024No Comments

March 25, 2024

Annie Warmke, an award winning activist and farmer, has dedicated four decades to the pioneering work of establishing rural safe housing for abused women and organizing women in agriculture. Over the last two decades, she has founded Women Grow Ohio, and Buffalo Gals Voices. She is a a goat herder (written three books on goats), makes cheese, plus manages Warmke Farm and their interns. She co-hosts the podcast “When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine”.

Note:  I will be using the words “women/woman” as a general term for all women and women identified.  I did not separate out other related issues such as race, socio-economic levels or urban vs. rural – that’s another discussion.

Women play a pivotal role in agriculture, contributing to food production, sustainable practices, and rural development. However, they continue to face challenges reminiscent of those encountered by women farmers centuries ago.  When it comes to women in agriculture, finding land is essential, but it’s not the first step. Here are some practical approaches and inspiring stories:

  1. Find Mentors:
    1. As women farmers and ranchers, we can serve as role models for those just starting or contemplating a leap into agriculture.
    1. Connect with organizations like Rural Action, OEFFA, and WFAN to learn from experienced mentors.
  2. Get to Know the Players:
    1. Familiarize yourself with key players who can guide you:
      1. NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service): They offer valuable resources and expertise.
      1. Extension Agents: Local experts who provide agricultural education and support.
      1. Foresters: Understand the importance of sustainable forestry practices.
      1. Explore related associations like Women Owning Woodlands.
  3. Share Your Story:
    1. Writing both a short and a longer version of your journey helps:
      1. Illustrate Diversity: Our farm businesses can take various forms, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
      1. Carve Your Niche: By sharing our stories, we inspire others and show them different paths to success.
      1. Educate and Connect: Use platforms like PA-WAgN, WFAN, and the Farmer’s Union to share experiences.
      1. Social Media and Beyond: Share your story on social media, within faith centers, and among women’s groups.
      1. Powerful Marketing Tool: In a world where women influence household purchase decisions, hearing another woman’s farm story resonates.
  4. Reinforce Expertise Through Storytelling:
    1. Women often downplay their efforts. By telling our stories, we become more authentic and confident.Discuss personal experiences, including struggles, learning curves, and managing family responsibilities.
    1. Urban Farming Success: Consider the case of an urban farmer who lacked land. She became a Garden Resource Coordinator, managing a tool lending library. This allowed her to connect with aspiring homesteaders and gardeners. Eventually, she secured private yards from neighbors and formed a Food Access Working Group. They grew produce in these yards, which was then sold for profit.
  5. Think Creatively:
    1. Explore unconventional spaces like Hospital grounds, and rental property yards (rent building to someone and use the land for growing food).
  6. Land trusts work with farmers who want a long term situation (99 year lease is usual) to farm land and forests (American Farmland Trust, Farmers Land Trust, Farmers Commons).
  7. Think about buying shares in an existing farm LLC.
  8.   Land acquisition companies:  Brunner Land Company
  9. Talk to your banker that handles estates.  Talk to your local community foundation that handles trusts.

Sharing personal stories not only educates but also helps empower women to achieve their goals. Supporting and celebrating the resilience of women in agriculture pays off for everyone!

Empowering Women Farmers: Challenges and Opportunities

Women play a pivotal role in agriculture, contributing to food production, sustainable practices, and rural development. However, they continue to face challenges reminiscent of those encountered by women farmers centuries ago. Here are some key points:

  1. Economic Struggles:
    1. Women farmers often grapple with the distinction between merely earning money and truly making a living. Balancing farm work, childcare, off-farm employment, and financial management is no small feat.
  2. Despite progress and increasing numbers of women entering the field of agriculture, gender-based roadblocks persist within the male-dominated agricultural landscape.
  3. Ohio’s Female Farmers:
    1. In Ohio, farms operated by female producers had a market value of $146,744 in 2022, while those operated by male producers reached $213,060.The average size of farms managed by women was 132.9 acres, compared to the larger average of 185.4 acres for male-operated farms.Approximately one-third of all Ohio farmers are female, with the majority falling within the 55-64 age range.Female farmers in Ohio tend to specialize in crop production, particularly oil seed and grain farming.
    1. They are less likely to consider farming their primary occupation and often achieve lower market values for their products.
  4. Navigating the Journey:
    1. Finding land is a critical step, but it’s not the first one:
      1. Seek Mentors: As women farmers and ranchers, we can serve as role models for newcomers. Organizations like Rural Action, OEFFA, and WFAN offer mentorship opportunities.
      1. Know the Players: Familiarize yourself with key players, including the NRCS, extension agents, foresters, and related associations (such as Women Owning Woodlands, Farmer’s Union, PAWAgN).
      1. Share Your Story: Writing a concise statement and a more detailed version allows us to showcase the diversity of farm businesses and the various paths available.

Empowering women in agriculture benefits us all—ensuring food security, economic growth, and sustainable practices. Let’s continue supporting and celebrating the resilience of women farmers!