Manitoba Farm Women’s Week runs from Nov. 15 to 21
By Diego Flammini
Women in Manitoba’s ag industry are in the spotlight from Nov. 15 to 21 during Manitoba Farm Women’s Week.
“Women in the industry are dynamic leaders, role models, influencers and supporters for their communities, families, associations and each other,” Blaine Pedersen, minister of agriculture and resource development, said in a Nov. 16 statement.
The 2016 Census of Agriculture showed the number of female farm operators is increasing.
Manitoba reported 20,140 farm operators in 2016. Women accounted for 23.8 per cent, or 4,793, of the province’s principal farmers.
In the 2011 Census of Agriculture, Manitoba had more farms, totaling 22,315 operations. More than 5,200 women were classified as primary farm operators but, as a percentage, the number was 23.6.
Women have always been part of Manitoba’s ag industry, perhaps just in not such visible roles as today, said Dianne Riding, president of Manitoba Beef Producers.
“I can remember back in my early 20s, in one of our (family’s) auction marts, you’d always see women working as clerks or doing paperwork,” she told Farms.com. “Today, you see women of all ages watching cattle sell or buying cattle for their operations.”
Women still face barriers in the industry.
Despite their involvement in ag, sometimes their input isn’t taken seriously, Riding said.
“We’re more welcome in the boardroom which is a huge plus,” she said. “But, unfortunately, you get the odd person who doesn’t feel we should be where we are. There’s still work that needs to be done.”
Women must juggle and reprioritize several roles and opportunities, said Jill Verwey, vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.
“Staying home to raise a family can create barriers to staying in the industry full time,” she told Farms.com. “That’s one thing that will never change from a woman’s perspective. I was in the ag lending industry, but I chose to raise my family (three daughters and one son) from home instead of continuing to work.”
Some industry challenges aren’t exclusive to women.
Becoming a commercial farmer isn’t an easy process for young men or women, Verwey said.
“If you think about the high capital costs to get into farming, those expenses don’t change because you’re a man or a woman,” she said.
The Canadian ag industry is full of women in important roles – from Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal ag minister, to the thousands of women in the industry sharing their stories on social media.
Any young woman wanting to get involved in the industry should know they can reach out to their peers at any time, Riding said.
“If your dream is to become a farmer or work in the industry, I say go for it,” she said. “There are a ton of talented women working in the ag sector who would be happy to help you along and answer any questions you may have.”