Despite being in the minority, women farmers have a large impact on the agriculture industry.
The most recent information from the U.S. Census of Agriculture, 288,264 women were principal operators of farms or ranches. In all, there are about 1 million female farmers and ranchers in the U.S.
Those numbers might not seem like much in the whole scope of agriculture, but women sold $12.9 billion in agricultural products in 2012.
In this edition of Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, we are honoring some of the women in the Ozarks who are making a living for themselves and their families through agriculture. From an ag teacher to an agronomists, and dairy farmers to a wife who is the primary operator of her farm while holding down a full-time job off the farm, these ladies are among those who are making strides in agriculture.
Despite what many may think, farm and ranch women don’t just tend to the children and the house, and cook for the menfolk after a hard day’s work. They milk cows and/or goats, shear sheep, rope calves, work livestock, plant and harvest fields, buck hay bales and break horses; you name it, they do it.
I’m lucky to have had so many women who have influenced me in my lifetime, and it’s no surprise many of them come from agriculture and/or small town backgrounds.
As I look at my nieces, I can’t help but feel a great sense of pride when they embrace agriculture.
My niece Madison plans on following the career path of her great-grandmother, mom and oldest sister by becoming a teacher. She, however, is opting out of being in elementary education and wants to be an ag teacher. Madison, who will be a senior in high school this fall, found her niche with FFA, and is the president of her chapter and an area officer. Her goal is to become a state officer. She’s also been pretty busy in the show ring in the summer since she was about 7 or 8 with her Boer goats.
Madison’s sisters, Jennifer (the teacher) and Kelsey (a banker), married farmers. They are all very busy with everyone working full-time off-the-farm jobs, but they – like many other young couples who choose to continue the farm life – make it work. Their husbands are very active in our agricultural community. Lance, Kelsey’s husband, is a member of our local fair board and Andy, Jennifer’s husband, is a livestock specialist with the University of Missouri-Extension.
Then there is Morgan. She’s one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet, but don’t let that exterior fool you; she’s tough as nails. I’ve got a great picture of her pulling a stubborn goat into the ring when she was about 3. She helped us work Dad’s cows and calves a couple of weeks ago and was pretty quick at getting needles handed over. At one time, she wanted to become a large animal vet. I’m not sure if she still does, but she watched my dad very closely as he pulled vaccines that day.
Finally, there are my great nieces, Miss Eloise and Miss Molly. While they are only 3 (they were born only a couple of weeks apart), they have been out with their moms and dads on the farm since they were babies. In the next few years I expect to see Molly pulling a little Hereford calf at county fairs, and maybe Eloise will be driving a couple of pigs; Aunt Julie can only hope. We will also have another farmer’s daughter joining the family in September.
When I’m gone, which I don’t plan to happen anytime soon – I hope my nieces and great nieces, as well as our only boy in the family, Brylie – will look back at me as being a positive influence in their lives. I hope they smile when they think of their crazy old aunt who bought them a horse costume, carried them in the show ring, took them to the fair and let them ride all the rides they wanted after checking out the livestock barns, wiped the mud off their face, cheered them on and let them dance in the car.