Giving Compass’ Take:
•Emily Moon, writing for Pacific Standard, explains the intricacies of the wage gaps for women farmers in the agricultural business.
• How can donors learn more about the issues female farmers currently face and help address them?
• Read about how women farmers are changing the field.
Women own half the farmland in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of farms in the country have at least one woman at the helm. And yet, according to Pacific Standard’s analysis, farms run by men earned almost twice as much on average as those run by women in 2017, the latest year for which federal data is available. Despite record numbers of women in agriculture, the gender wage gap persists.
The reality is, of course, more complicated. For example, women tend to own smaller farms that typically make less money. Many female farmers and landowners are trying out new approaches to agriculture—making “value-added products” like jams and cheeses, renting to conservation-minded tenants—that aren’t always valued in the U.S. food system. Still, things are improving: U.S. Department of Agriculture census data shows women’s sales have increased across every class of farm over the last three decades.
But the gap persists. Some of this disparity can be attributed to farm size: In a highly consolidated industry—in which large corporate firms dominate more than half of the country’s production—women tend to own smaller farms, thus yielding smaller profits.
Still, many women want to work outside the influence of agribusiness, and their efforts are not always well received, according to Angie Carter, assistant professor of environmental justice at Michigan Technological University. “There’s still a lot of very gendered social norms about who is a farmer, who makes decisions on the land, what should a farm be used for … all rooted in this patriarchal capitalist food system we have,” she says.
To combat these challenges, many women in agriculture have come to rely on informal networks. The Midwest-based non-profit Women, Food and Agriculture Network leads meetings for women landowners to share their expertise outside of the typical, male-dominated places in agriculture: the feed shop, the co-op, Farm Bureau meetings.
Read the full article about women farmers by Emily Moon at Pacific Standard.
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