A 2015 census in agriculture study estimated that 38% of the approximately 300,000 persons who make decisions for farms that sold food in the United States are women. While a sizable minority, there is still room for more women to step into leadership roles within the agricultural community and there are numerous organizations that offer support for female farmers and ranchers.
The USDA reports that women fill many roles within the agricultural system, from farmers, ranchers, agricultural researchers, and educators. Women also serve in farm management and business planning, farm marketing, and directly contributing to local food systems. This list is not exhaustive, but it does highlight a sample of many of the jobs that women perform within the farming and ranching community.
There are a number of associations and organizations which have been created with the specific purpose of supporting women in agriculture. Some are more broad and encompass women in all of the various roles within the agricultural community, while others work with specific niches:
American Agri-Women is the nation’s largest coalition of female farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness owners. Founded in 1974, its purpose is to advocate for and promote women in agriculture.
American National Cattle Women provides a voice for women within the beef ranching community. Its focus is on beef promotion, education, and legislation. The ANCW also hosts conventions and trade shows annually to bring together women in the industry.
National Women in Agriculture Association was founded in 2008 with the mission of saving lives and eliminating poverty by increasing the availability of fresh, locally grown foods while expanding economic opportunities. The NWIAA is the first and fastest growing non-profit professional agriculture organization for women and minorities in the United States. The organization also includes two programs for youth, ages 6-12 and ages 12 and older, to experience hands-on education in agriculture.
The Women, Food and Agriculture Network was born out of an idea from the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1994. An organic farmer from Iowa and a New York state food justice advocate came together to form a women in agriculture working group. After the conference these women continued working together and in 1997 the group was formalized. The mission of the WFAN is to engage women farmers in building an ecological and just food and agricultural system through individual and community power.
The USDA Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network provides a way to connect, share stories, and experiences with other women in agriculture. The organization provides a monthly newsletter featuring profiles of women in agriculture as well as quarterly engagement calls where members can hear from influential voices within farming and ranching who are working to increase representation and diversity within the community.
If you haven’t explored these options yet, you should check out what is happening through the trade schools, colleges, universities and nonprofits in your region. Many of them have dedicated organizations and/or resources for women in agriculture. A sample of them includes:
Do a quick search online for “women in agriculture near me” to find potential resources and organizations near you.
While the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is committed to the service of all farmers and ranchers, a portion of all funding is specifically allocated to historically underserved farmers and ranchers, which includes women. These come through a combination of grants to regional organizations who provide technical and/or financial support, and, through loans available directly to the farmers/ranchers.
Some of the funding is available through FSA loan products provided direct to the farmer. Other loans are part of the Guaranteed Farm Loans to USDA-approved commercial lenders. These lenders work with the farmer or rancher to get the funding needed to buy or expand/enhance their property.
As women in agriculture, there are a number of resources available to support your work in farming and ranching, whether you are just getting started or have been working in the industry for years. As you explore ways to connect with other female farmers, it can be helpful to discuss with your trusted advisors how some of these programs might benefit your business as you look ahead. We are an FSA-approved lender and work and have worked with many farmers and ranchers. Let us help answer some of those questions for you