Women Own/On the Farm

October 27, 2011

I read the article  Women Own or Jointly Operate 30 Percent of U.S. Farms with more than a little interest. Because of my work as a photographer specializing in agriculture, I have spent many hours with farmers. Most of them have been male.  The more successful they were, the more credit they gave to their spouses.

That credit might be very basic from picking up tractor parts or preparing a meal to managing the complicated business of the farm marketing program. Still others recognized their wife as a full farm partner who took care of everything else: children, meals, house and even holding down an off-farm job that provided health insurance for the family.  I learned to recognize the beginnings of a problem when a farmer either never mentioned his wife or dismissed her involvement as “minimal.”

The median age of a farmer is 55.  Obviously, “he” is looking over his shoulder trying to figure out where to go from here.  I think and hope many farmers are thoughtful enough that they consider bringing in the child who is best suited to  agribusiness rather than basing a decision primarily on gender.  And, when there is no child available, then I would hope the farmer will take a careful look outside the family for a young person to bring along, who might just be female.

See you in the field.


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