While women have always played an essential part in farming, more recently they’ve started taking on the lead role. According to the most recent U.S. Agriculture Census in 2012, more than 280,000 of all primary farm operators are women. Overall, one million women work in the agriculture industry nationwide—the sector’s fastest growing demographic. The number of female-led farms has nearly tripled since 1982 and accounts for 30 percent of farm operators in the U.S. In Wisconsin, there are 33,184 women farmers working almost 5.6 million acres of land.
That’s still a minority and perhaps as a result women have also prioritized networking and connecting with their fellow farmers. Across Wisconsin and the country, there are groups of women and farm women organizations that meet on a regular basis to discuss techniques, share tools and strategize business success. At Rural, we believe everyone should have access to the best resources possible.
Below are our recommendations to help women farmers continue to grow.
- If you haven’t already, join Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
Membership qualifies you for a range of benefits and services designed to help farmers. These include discounts on equipment and supplies, medical and prescription cost savings, car rental discounts and financial services.
- Be creative.
Thinking outside the traditional farming box can increase your revenue flow. Does your school district want locally grown produce? Does your city have unused land that could be turned into a community garden? Are there food coops in nearby, or even not so near, cities that want local organic produce and meat. Many farmers are adding educational components, farm shops and “agri-tourism” opportunities to visit their farms, to the business of growing crops or raising animals.
- New ventures are often sparked by other people.
Get involved with a local farmer-led watershed group. Join one of your county Farm Bureau’s committees and the Young Farmer and Agriculturist (YFA) program to connect with people who understand what you are going through. Develop contacts with women’s organizations, like Dairy Girl Network. Reach out to local businesses and schools to network and meet new people. You never know where a business opportunity may come from, or an idea to expand and diversify your operation.
- Identify resources for financial help.
Women often start farming with less capital than their male counterparts. Finding additional sources of funds can make the difference between success and failure. The federal government, state of Wisconsin and a variety of community groups give out loans and credits to minority and women farmers. One place to look is the USDA’s farm loan programs targeted to women. For young women who want to go into farming, the University of Wisconsin’s Association of Women in Agriculture offers scholarships and support.
- Have a Rural Mutual Insurance agent come out to your farm.
Our agents are local and can help make sure every part of your farm operation that needs to be protected is. Farm insurance will help you survive the proverbial rainy day – whether it’s a drought or a flood, a lightning strike or a disease outbreak.
Farming is a pillar of Wisconsin’s economy. But it’s always been more than that. It’s part of our identity – our history and our future. Now women are stepping up to make sure that farming’s future stays bright.
Rural Mutual is the #1 farm insurer in Wisconsin. We review risk for a living. We also see the passion and drive that characterizes farmers throughout Wisconsin. Call your local Rural Mutual agent for additional tips and insights for women in farming specific to your community.