The 2012 Census of Agriculture  released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that women still make up a small percentage of operators, but that they’re making an impact.
A woman working on a farm is nothing new, but over the last few decades, her role has been changing. More women have become principal farm operators – meaning they make day-to-day decisions.
According to the Census, women make up almost 14 percent of the principal farm operators nationally. In Wisconsin, women run 10.5 percent of farms. Those numbers don’t include all women that work on farms.
Joy Kirkpatrick, an outreach specialist with the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability, said Wisconsin’s major agricultural industries – dairy and grain – are still dominated by men.
“Those are the commodities that are being raised here and those aren’t attracting women farmers as the primary operators of those sorts of enterprises,” said Kirkpatrick.
According to the Census, women are more likely to grow specialty produce and raise livestock on small-scale farms. The majority make less than $50,000 annually.
Women, Food, and Ag Network executive director Leigh Adcock said women have been major drivers behind the local food movements. She noted that in the Census, the market value of products raised on women’s farms did go up.
“The value of organic or sustainably raised produce – fruits, vegetables, small livestock – definitely have grown over the last five years since people have been willing to pay more for those value added products,” said Adcock.
Adcock said it would be great to see more women in management and leadership roles in agriculture, but it’s still very much a man’s industry.