Women in Agriculture Hold the Future of Many Farms

Husker Home Place

About half of the farmland in the U.S. is owned or co-owned by women.

Published on: April 1, 2014

According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, about half of the farmland in the country is owned or co-owned by women. While the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed a decrease in the number of women farmers, there is no doubt about the important role women play in the keeping and caring of the land. A series of workshops coming up in April, May and June are being sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs, designed specifically for women in agriculture.

These sessions are geared for a wide range of topics including for those women wishing to learn more about farm financing and deciding if farming and ranching is for them, to those wishing to be a farmers’ market vendor or beginning a Community Supported Agriculture system. For anyone wishing to learn more about these workshops, you can preregister by contacting Virginia Meyer (virginiam@cfra.org) at the Center for Rural Affairs.

Another scenario that is quite common develops when a wife farms or ranches with her husband for many years as his partner, and the husband passes away. This leaves the wife as the landowner or farm manager to take over the day-to-day decision making for the operation on her own. Although many wives are quite involved in the operation, they may not have marketed grain or dealt with taxes, purchasing inputs, negotiating leases or upgrading machinery or facilities by themselves before. In many cases, the widows are dealing with the loss of their farm partner, and they are shouldering these new burdens without much preparation. This can be a pretty lonely feeling.

When my father passed away in 2010, it was very difficult for my mother. She had been intimately involved in the farming operation and knew much of the income and expense side of the business, because she managed it along with Dad. However, she had also worked off the farm for many years in another career, so it was challenging at times even for her to deal with the loss of my father and making all of the decisions without talking things over with Dad. Certainly, having a son involved in the operation helps. It also helps to have a tenant and neighbor who is caring and understanding. But, there is still that difficult transition time when it is tough to work through the daily operational decisions. Changing federal farm programs, technology, the cost of inputs and the changes in regular farming operations over the past few years are sometimes hard to comprehend for veteran farmers, let alone their widowed spouses who may have not been involved in the day-to-day work on the operation.

The widowed spouse may also find it tough to deal with transitions among family members, figuring out financing, choosing input retailers and other related business challenges, along with the intense feeling of personal loss.

Here is this week’s discussion question. If you or your parent or relative has lost their farming spouse and has been through this situation, what resources do you wish you had available to you to help you in the decision making process? What resources did you use that were most helpful? You can share your experiences here.

Do you want to learn more about how the long-awaited USDA prospective plantings and quarterly grain stocks report will impact crop prices and your bottom line? Then, you won’t want to miss our upcoming Farm Progress webinar this Monday, Apr. 7 at 7 p.m. CST. Join the Farm Futures marketing team of Bryce Knorr and Bob Burgdorfer, as they preview spring grain markets before you head to the field for planting.

Learn more about Nebraska farm news at Nebraska Farmer online, or follow us on Twitter at Husker Home Place.