In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the organizations that are focused on empowering women in the agricultural industry.
The American Farm Bureau Federation quotes the most recent Census of Agriculture in saying that 36 percent of U.S. farmers are women and 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision maker.
In addition, women farmers are most heavily engaged in day-to-day farm and ranch decisions, along with recordkeeping and financial management.
The following are just a few organizations in Wisconsin that aim to help women excel in management, stewardship and operation.
Women in Agriculture Organizations
Dairy Girl Network
Dairy Girl Network has been able to secure more than 5,000 members nationwide, and is getting attention from dairy women in Mexico, Canada and New Zealand. But it has its sights set on continuing its growth in the U.S., reaching underserved populations. The network connects all women of the dairy industry, encouraging ideas and relationships to grow through shared experience, support and inspiration.
The organization has humble roots in Wisconsin. DGN President and Founder Laura Daniels says the group started during World Dairy Expo when she invited friends and friends of friends to network at a dinner. She says about 45 people showed up, and there was a clear need to bring dairy women together more often.
“These are women who are serving with their whole heart in multiple, very demanding roles, and that creates a life that is so dynamic, and it can be very difficult for people who aren’t in the dairy business to understand that,” says Daniels.
DGN hosts regional and national events both in-person and virtually. Topics range from personal to professional development, including goal setting, mental health, calf care, reproduction protocols, milk pricing policy, and working around high interest rates.
This is a national nonprofit that educates and empowers women in agriculture. Annie’s Project is celebrating 20 years since its founding. Co-CEO Doris Mold, who raises dairy and beef in Polk County, Wisconsin, says the inaugural class of 10 women met in 2003 in Illinois. Today, the program has over 19,000 graduates across 38 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
One of the graduates thanks Annie’s Project for giving her the knowledge she needed to keep the farm operating after her husband passed.
“She was able to keep the farm running, farm it well, and keep it going so her children had the opportunity to farm,” says Mold. “And she has told us that if she hadn’t participated in Annie’s Project, that she would have taken the advice of the people that told her ‘don’t continue to farm, sell up’ after her husband passed. But now she was able to keep that legacy going.”
Class attendees vary from farmers to agriculturists to landowners. They attend in-person or virtual sessions. Topics focus on risk: financial, human resources, legal, market and production.
Wisconsin Women in Conservation
Wisconsin Women in Conservation is a statewide project led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Renewing the Countryside, Marbleseed and Wisconsin Farmers Union. It’s a five-year effort funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. It connects women landowners with local women conservation professionals, practices, resources and funding opportunities.
The project started in 2020 with a focus on helping women farmers across the state in their conservation plan. But it’s grown to encompass urban farmers as well, explains Noemy Serrano, a district coordinator with the project. She serves southeast Wisconsin, including Milwaukee. She says WiWiC event participation has grown to over 2,000 in 2022.
“I have seen WiWiC make a huge difference,” Serrano says. “Ag being a predominantly male dominated space I think can be intimidating or uncomfortable for women. So just being able to create a space where women can come and meet other individuals that have their interest is really important.”
The organization hosts learning circles, field days, webinars, happy hours and other networking events. WiWiC is building regional networks, but events are open to all. Learn how to get involved with Wisconsin women caring for the land.
At Rural Mutual, we believe everyone should have access to the best resources possible. Reach out to a local agent to make sure your farm is properly protected.