USDA Data Shows More Women Operating Farms

Published online: Jul 29, 2019 Articles Emily Erwin
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Source: Bakersfield Now

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) collects data from farms across America every five years. The latest data, collected in 2017, revealed our farms are becoming a little more feminine.

Shafter, Calif., resident Jenny Holtermann has been a farmer all her life. She grew up on an almond farm in northern California and she and her husband recently bought a small almond orchard in Shafter.

"I don’t think I’d want to do anything else. No,” Holtermann said.

To her, farming is a way for quality family time.

“Every day is bring-your-kid-to-work day,” she said.

Those family values could be the reason for the increase in women joining the industry. The latest census data gathered by the USDA reveals the majority of farms are family owned and women now make up 36 percent of farm producers nationwide, a 27 percent increase from five years ago.

Holtermann thinks there are more opportunities now than ever before, creating new paths for women on farms. The USDA is recognizes that as well.

The latest farm census counted more jobs as producers, or major decision makers, than in previous years – jobs like Lindsey Mebane’s. She's the food safety manager for Tasteful Selections, a mini potato farm and distributor in Arvin, Calif.

The USDA says the revised questionnaire better captures the contributions of all people on a farm, like Mebane, who ensures those little potatoes are safe to eat.

Mebane said a lot of people think of her as the food police. She deals with lots of regulations, paper work and making sure people are following safety policies.

The farming census data found most women on farms are involved in day-to-day decision making, financial management and record keeping.

Mebane thinks now is the perfect opportunity for a women's perspective on the farm.

"Farmers definitely have to be progressive in their thinking. You know water is a huge issue for us, labor, all of those things that are kind of hammering down on our industry and farmers and ranchers have to constantly be thinking how can they do more with less," Mebane said.