According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the number of women-operated farms increased from 5 percent to 14 percent between 1978 and 2007. Today, counting principal operators and secondary operators, women account for 30 percent of all farmers in the United States, or just under 1 million.Some women regard themselves less as entrepreneurs and more as gentle stewards of the land, or bulwarks against corporations overtaking family farms and developers sweeping in with seductive offers. Others are drawn to the farm-to-fork movement, where locally grown produce and meat hold much greater appeal. Also, more women are inheriting farms and ranches.
When we discusss gender in an agricultural context, it is usually to point out that around the world, women are approximately half of the agricultural workforce, and in less developed countries they often comprise the majority of the the agricultural sector. U.S. students find this shocking, given that traditional cultural norms often perceive farm work as a very masculine domain. However, that has slowing been changing in the last 30 years as more women in the U.S. are owning and operating farms. There isn’t one simple reason to explain this shift, but it is indicative of broader social changes.