The ladies of agriculture
Agricultural occupations have been dominated historically by men, but women are making their stamp on the industry. In the United States, 1.2 million producers are now female. This makes up 36% of the 3.4 million producers tallied in the 2021 Census of Agriculture.
When I was a toddler, I remember running around the farm, playing or following dad as he did his work. The workers here were all men. Now when you look around our farm, most of the employees are women.
Women have always played vital roles on family farms, but the dynamics of management and decision making have changed. We now see a lot of women being hired as farm managers or herdsmen. Many of our consultants are women, for areas like nutrition, veterinary work, farm software, and robot consultants.
When we give tours, it tends to be a shock for the visitors to see the vast majority of workers are women. They ask questions like “Women can do this?” or “I didn’t realize women worked on farms.” It gives young people a new perspective of the agriculture industry and a chance to see that they, too, can pursue agriculture careers.
I still get the occasional male truck driver who wants to speak with the “boss man” — and that’s okay. I chuckle and carry on. Nine times out of 10 times, they are eventually sent back to me, asking where I would like the commodity or product unloaded, for example. I smile respectfully and then show them.
A few years back I attended the Young Dairy Leader Institute. The majority of people in attendance were women. When my dad attended one of the first classes many years ago, he said most of the participants were men. Women are gaining respect and recognition in the field of agriculture. As I go to different conferences and network, I see more and more women doing the same. At these same conferences, a lot of the speakers are women, and many more females are pursuing degrees in the agricultural field.
So, here’s a shout out to all the women pulling calves, feeding animals, growing crops, milking cows, managing farms, or consulting with farmers. Keep up the good work, and thank you for all you do!
Caitlin and Mark Rodgers
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.