From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors, and to feed the world.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers. These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.
Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture. We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians, and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policymakers and standard bearers. Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.
On October 20, I have invited a small group of leaders from almost all corners of the ag sector to join me at the White House and discuss the future of women in agriculture. Co-hosted by the White House Rural Council, and co-organized by AGree (a collaborative initiative of nine of the world’s leading foundations to tackle long-term food and agriculture issues), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the impact women have had in American agriculture and the vision we have for the next generation of agricultural leaders.
Women principal farm operators average 60 years old. This means our daughters and granddaughters hold the future of American agriculture in their hands. As women leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, trained, and prepared to usher agriculture into the future.
When I was a kid growing up on a Georgia peanut farm, I was inspired by my mother’s hard work on and off the farm. She taught me to carry my love of the land into all aspects of my life. As my career has developed, I have continued to be inspired by not only incredibly strong and talented women who are making a difference in agriculture, but also by men who recognize the vital role that women play in this industry. Monday’s dialogue will be just one of many parts of an important conversation on how we can better engage and empower women to continue helping agriculture succeed.
Join the conversation using #womeninag and share with the world the women who inspire you.
Krysta Harden is the Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.