Agriculture's Rising Force: Female Farmers

Women now account for 30% of US farmers

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 8, 2013 7:04 AM CDT

(Newser) – One of the biggest changes in agriculture isn't so much about what type of seeds are being planted as who is planting them: women. Grist expands on a USDA study showing that the number of farms run by women has nearly tripled in the last three decades. Add in secondary operators, and women now account for 30% of American farmers. The trend is accelerating of late, and Grist sees two general groups—women 40 and older who are ditching office jobs and 20-somethings coming out of school with agriculture or environmental science degrees.

A few general characteristics:

  • Women's farms are typically on the small side, with only 5% registering sales of $100,000 or more, says a blog post from USDA deputy chief Kathleen Merrigan.
  • Along those lines, more female farmers rely on "off-the-farm" income than their male counterparts.
  • 85% of women own the land they farm, versus 66% of male farmers.
  • Younger women are entering farming at a faster clip than older women are leaving.
And finally, "so hot is ag life that novels about farming are replacing chick lit, offering an unexpected twist to the notion of dirty romance," writes Grist's Lori Rotenberk, referring to this story in the Atlantic.

  (Shutterstock)
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