The Female Farmer Project™

documenting the rise of women in agriculture

ask a farmer: encouraging the next generation


Originally published: 

The Female Farmer Project is fortunate to have a series of great conversations happening on our Facebook page.  The information and advice that is being shared is too valuable to let it slide further and further down on the page.  This series is hopefully a way to capture and preserve the advice, wisdom and conversation.  Thank you to all the farmers that contributed to this conversation!

The latest Farm Census revealed that the average age of women farmers here in the US is 58. I reached out to the farmers on Facebook and Twitter to ask;

"What are some things that we can do to help encourage young women to seek their path in agriculture and farming?"  

This proved to be a very popular and impassioned topic. Thank you to all of you who participated. Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below!

From Facebook: 

Janya IntheCountry One thing that's encouraged me the most is compassionate mentoring and the welcoming arms of other farmers. It's hard to stay the course without peer support.

Emme Dague Amble I think the practicalities of affordable land, making a living and child care make it hard for younger women to consider it. I agree though that exposure to more women doing it will help. Good examples are very powerful and inspiring!

Lissa Howe   Arizona dropped from 48 to 49 in the "Locavore Index".... Our cheese sales compete against highly subsidized European cheeses. WHO say's small sustainable organic is the way of the future.... Global warming in the forefront. Encouraging young farmers is hard for me to do because it is so hard to make a living. Usually we see one person working off the smaller farms so there is a real paycheck to rely on and health care. I can't say buy local often enough or strongly enough. And take care of the land and animals and economies of your area first. We need markets, food hubs and distribution systems that allow a farmer to make money and stay on the farm. More direct to consumer sales, or to restaurants willing to pay for good food. More people committed to sustainable and local agriculture and willing to pay a bit more for real food, good food, that supports local communities. Then maybe a farmer can make a living.

Melissa Farmer I'm 33 and English & I would love to jack in my job with the NHS and take a job in agriculture. However; here in the Uk it's not easy to get into especially as a second career and part time vocational training is very rare. Any advice would be greatly appreciated though xx 

In response to Melissa: Susan Melton-Piper Do you have a backyard in which to grow things at all? Maybe you could consider starting there, then see if there are community gardens where you could plant more. You get lots of experience doing "hands on" things and can do it in your off time fromyour job. Biointensive gardening is a good idea and lots of material out there. You might be able to sell a few things after a time at a local farmer's market. See if there are any farmers not too far from you who might let you be an intern on your days off. I wish you the very best.

Rita Jackson Make sure farmers get the cost of production!

Shelley Pasco-Verdi   Give them opportunities to try farming. There are lots of women looking for farm internships. They outweigh the men this year, it seems.

Susan Melton-Piper  Sharing your (Female Farmer Project) FB page so that young women will be encouraged to become farmers. I also agree with the mentoring, Janya. I think we need to work more with local FFA programs at schools and maybe 4H. I think that it may be time to go into the urban areas and work with them as well. There are plenty of urban farms/gardens now and people who are passionate about keeping these programs going. Maybe some type of networking among farmers inrural areas and those who work in urban agricultural endeavors would help.

Carla Jaquet   The key to encouraging the next generation of women farmers is engagement. They need countless opportunities for experiential learning and diverse experiences. I returned to agriculture in my mid-forties and have an open door policy for the daughters and sons of the farm who will be next to manage the land. I recognize their lives are filled with necessary daily obligations and so I wait patiently. Their active participation makes continued gains and my heat swells with each growing season and their desire to participate. We continue to learn together.

Nicole Rippe Murphy  Advise them to obtain their education (if wanting one beyond high school) financially wisely, so they have more freedom to pursue a rewarding but probably not uber wealthy field like ag/farming.

Green Basket   I'm 39 and would love to leave my full-time office job to start farming, but I'm the family breadwinner and can't leave the steady income. Farming seems too risky to take business loans to cover the gap between starting the farm and making a profit. What happens if the farm fails? How will I pay my bills?

Elise Rester I'm 26. I raise goats but work outside the farm. I wish i could support myself with just the farm

From Twitter: 

TwoMoonFamilyFarm ‏@TwoMoonFF  Apr 7

@FemmeFarm2Table I'm only 44 and I'm rather old in my area- that's encouraging, no?

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