Women have been involved in the agriculture industry for centuries. While they've been a smaller segment in the industry, their numbers are becoming the fasting growing in the industry. While their numbers are smaller and they run smaller operations, their impact is still significant. As of 2019, poultry farms (31%) and livestock (30%) are the two largest shares of women principal operators.
U.S. History of Women in Ag
In early American history, women still had an impact on the farms. They often did bookkeeping, would tend to the family garden, and help with other tasks. However, their work was never recorded by the Department of Agriculture, so it appeared that women were practically non-existent in agriculture. It wasn't until after World War II women were found in the history of agriculture.
By the end of the war, more than 6 million men left their plows to join the military or to work in other more profitable industries. While many foreign laborers and prisoners of war were used on the farm, women were the major driving power on the farm. The USDA Extension Service reported that between 1943 and 1945 about 1.5 million non-farm women were placed in the industry. During the same time, nearly the same number of women were hired directly by the farms.
Many members of the Women’s Land Army of America (WLA), an extension of the U.S. Crop Corps., were part of the droves of women that worked on the farm during the war. These women, known as land girls or farmerettes, received training and wore uniforms.
The Growing Trend
The growth of women in the industry began to spike during the women’s movement in the 1960s to 1980s. Since then the number of women in ag has grown significantly. The number of farms run by women doubled during the time period of 1978-2005, increasing from 100,000 to 250,000. And the number continues to grow! In 2019, 51% of all U.S. farming operations had at least one woman operator. Today, 14%of operations have a woman as the principal operator and women are secondary operators of 37% of farms. In 2019, 4% of the total value of production came from farms with principal female operators.
From the field to the lab to the boardroom, women are paving the way for the future of agriculture. AgHires is part of the movement with over half of our team being women. AgHires was founded by Lori Culler, who grew up on the family farm and worked as a senior leader who focused on business strategy, organizational development, human capital strategy, and financial management. She started AgHires in 2014 after becoming frustrated with the shortage of resources to support the Agriculture Industry. Not only do we continue to carry out her vision to provide Farms and Agribusinesses of all sizes the right support to find and hire top talent, but we also work to pave the way for women in the industry.
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