Celebrating women in agriculture

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This edition of Ozarks Farm & Neighbor is our annual Women in Ag issue, where we celebrate contributions women are making on farms and ranches right here in the Ozarks. 

For generations, women have been an important part of agriculture; we are often unsung heroes. Women have been the backbone of farms and ranches since farming and ranching began, but there as been a push to recognize women in agriculture several years, and it’s about dang time. 

I recently read a little ditty about Virginia farm women in the 1800s.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell if it’s fact or fiction. 

“On the farm, feeding poultry, collecting eggs, tending the garden, making and mending clothing, doing laundry and preparing meals over the open kitchen hearth were daily activities of the farmer’s wife,” the document said. They also “sometimes” helped their husbands. Still, their main job was to tend to the house and to raise the children. I am sure they tended the house, the garden and the kids after spending a lot of time working beside their husbands. I wonder what those farm ladies in 1800s Virginia would think about today’s female farmers and ranchers. Would they be proud to see how far we’ve come? I think they would.  

Back in the 1800s, it wouldn’t be unusual for men to refuse to do business with the “weaker sex.” I guess they felt men wore the pants, so they would rather deal with their fellow fellers. Strong-willed, confident women were, and still are, considered pushy and overbearing by many, even by other women. And nothing gets a lady fired up more than, “Oh, let me talk to your husband/dad/brother,” so tread lightly around farm ladies, guys. They know what they are doing, so don’t underestimate their knowledge.

Thankfully, my late mother taught me to stand up for myself and not to allow myself to be pushed around but to do it with a bit of refinement. Well, I got the stand up for myself part down pat, but the refinement seems to escape me most of the time. I do my best, but sometimes it simply doesn’t work; I turn into one of “those women.” As far as Bill being “in charge,” that doesn’t float. As it should be, we are partners in everything, but there has been a time or two when someone has suggested he do the opposite of what he and I determined was right for us. His response, “Have you met my wife? Would you like to go talk to her?” Good answer, Bill. Good answer.

The most recent U.S. Agriculture Census states more than 230,000 farms or ranches in the country are ran by women, with the highest concentration of female producers being beef cattle producers. Additionally, the 2017 Ag Census states more than 229,000 women are principal producers, and more than 355,000 are considered “any producer.”

The second-highest commodity group with female producers was “other crop farming,” with the majority coming from hay or row crops. This commodity group had more than 167,000 principal producers and more than 244,000 “any female” producers. Row crops account for 19.8 percent of female producers. 

Women are also leaders off the farm in today’s world of ag business, education, research and development, marketing and many other fields. Like all women in ag, they are plowing through stereotypes and making a difference for all farmers and ranchers, not just female operators. 

Congratulations to all of the women involved in agriculture. Your hard work, perseverance and dedication continue to inspire future generations of agriculturalists – and me.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]

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