By Alayna DeMartini
Rarely is the image of a farmer a woman.
And yet, among all of Ohio’s farms, 40 percent are managed or partly managed by women. Nationally, women made up almost one third of all farmers, according to 2012 census data, the most recent year available.
With women playing such a significant part in running or helping to run farms across the state, Ohio State University Extension connects women farmers and provides support for them to thrive and continue the healthy growth of women in the field. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
The number of female farm operators in the state has been rising since 1978 when it was first tracked.
“It’s surprising to people to find out how many women are involved in agriculture even though women have had an important role since the beginning of agriculture,” said Emily Adams, an OSU Extension educator in Coshocton County.
Between 2007 and 2012, there was a slight dip in women as principal operators on farms both in Ohio and the U.S. In the Buckeye state, the number declined by 5 percent. A new census is currently underway.
For women in counties across the state, OSU Extension hosts educational workshops to help them improve their farming and management skills and network with other women farmers.
Some of the challenges women in farming face are the same ones their male counterparts confront: planning for their successors on the farm as well as contending with insurance, liabilities and financial challenges.
But a lot of women say they are especially challenged by tending to the needs of their family members and the constant demands of the business, Adams pointed out.
“Women working in agriculture are trying to balance work and family responsibilities, and the two are interwoven because as women farmers, they often are working with family members 24/7.”
“We strive to empower women with information and knowledge so they are prepared for situations. Hopefully, they will worry less and recognize the influence they can have over a situation.”
Among the offerings that OSU Extension provides for women farmers is Annie’s Project, which is part of a national effort to enhance the farming and business skills of women involved in all aspects of agriculture.