Land of the Feminine
Nov 02, 2018
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 31 percent of farmers in the U.S. are women and account for 300 million acres of land and $12.9 billion in economic impact. In Missouri, 45,939 (31 percent of) farmers are women and account for more than 9 million acres of land and $338.8 million in economic impact. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that women make up 40 percent of the world’s agricultural workforce. Despite these numbers, female farmers in the United States make $2,560 a year to their male peers’ $42,731 (17 times more), according to the Natural Resource Defense Council in 2016. However, discouraging numbers haven’t stopped women with degrees in finance, science and marketing from entering agricultural business, also known as agribusiness.
There are several challenges that face agriculture. For instance, the USDA reports that farmers are aging out of the industry with no plans for succession. Between 2007 and 2012, the country lost 100,000 farmers between the ages of 45 and 54. As the number of farmers decrease, the population and its demand for food increases. Anna Fälth of the United Nations points out that the population is expected to grow by 2.3 billion people by 2050, and the demand for food could increase by 60 percent. Fälth says that an increase of female farmers is essential in fighting hunger and bettering the overall population. Not only will the population remain fed, but, “...empowered women have healthier and better- educated children.”
The function of small and mid-size farms support economies, job growth, spending and tax revenue in rural areas. The influx of educated women in agribusiness could help preserve these farms, as female-owned farms are usually small or mid-sized. With less access to land and resources than men, female farmers tend to grow on smaller plots of land with their focus being diverse crops, sustainability and food over commodity. In other words, most female farmers make it their objective to provide the freshest and most responsibly sourced food to their local communities.
While essential to the American population, women around the world keep their communities thriving through their work in agriculture. For example, Dr. Maria Andrade and her colleagues of Cape Verde, Africa developed a drought-resistant sweet potato to curb vitamin A deficiencies in Mozambique. Research and developments such as this bridge international gaps in nutrition and health.
Speaking with the USDA, Kelsey Ducheneaux of the Lakota Sioux Nation describes how entering a business where women are sidelined was a challenge after being raised in her matriarchal, Native American culture. However, she rallies other women taking the plunge into agribusiness, “I also want to encourage young women to take pride in their work. When you’ve witnessed an accomplishment, share it! Especially when you’re the one reaching that milestone. Remember that once you’ve climbed the ladder of success, there’s almost always someone who doesn’t have the capacity to reach that bottom rung. It is your job to climb back down and help others find their way to the top to enjoy the view alongside of you.”