The average age of the U. S. farmer is 58 years old, farm numbers are shrinking more every year, and fewer farm kids want to stay on the farm.
You don’t have to look very far to see the move toward knowing where your food comes from and the transition to organic lifestyles. The increase in women farmers in my opinion, is coming from the smaller scale operations in terms of acreage and value of agricultural products sold. The majority tend to sell more vegetable crops or specialized products.
An even greater number to recognize is that 99% of all U.S. farms are run by farm families, either individuals, partnerships or family corporations, and there is generally a female involved in every one of those farms letting her husband’s name be the one that is counted. For generations, farm wives have been promoting our industry behind the scenes. Today they are taking on more visible roles. Some are operating their own farms, serving on county boards, participating in Women in Ag groups, or helping to educate our youth through 4H and FFA.
For the past decade, the years of goodwill established by hardworking family farms have been eroded by big money funds advocating against the rural way of life. Dairy is a sin, meat is unethical, and we should all eat cardboard burgers. With the financial crunch farm families are facing, it becomes more difficult to pay for advertising showing the farmer wrapping baby calves in blankets, or feeding when the family is in bed. Women are great at marketing, and social media is a great way to showcase these acts of love.
Farm women need to continue to get involved in all aspects of the farm, from the farm nursery, to bookkeeping, to running for public office. Speak out for our industry and help educate people on the issues facing farmers today. Women are better at networking and tend to ask for help quicker than their male counter parts. The passion women have for our industry needs to be shared and there is no one better to do it than a daughter, wife, mother or grandmother that grew up on the farm. Women speak with their hearts. Spread your stories of farm life and God’s caretakers.
Kathy Daily is the Managing Director of First Financial Bank’s Farm and Ranch Division. Mrs. Daily has been an agricultural lender for over 25 years.