Chelsea Kruse, a beginning dairy farmer and active New England Farmers Union member, recently traveled to Clearwater, FL, for National Farmers Union’s Women’s Conference. The event, held Jan. 17-21, drew 50 women farmers from across the nation, and imparted curriculum on business, leadership development activities, and networking opportunities.
Kruse reflected on what she learned about fellow participants: “Women shared their stories about the adversity they dealt with, whether as a minority, stuck in gender roles, as a single mother, as a member of a starving family, you name it, and they relayed strength and perseverance and how agriculture helped them find character and mettle within themselves to overcome these problems.”
She continued, “Everyone at the conference celebrated the wherewithal that women have had in a male-dominated field, and no one had preconceived elitist notions about agriculture. Everyone celebrated the diversity and many forms that agriculture can take; no one belittled anyone else’s thoughts on the matter.”
In the wake of the conference, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson saluted the growing role of women in agriculture and their invaluable contributions to family farming.
“Women have always played a critical role in family farming, and that role is increasing dramatically as the number of women who are farmers in the U.S. has grown to roughly one million strong,” said Johnson. “Thankfully, the future of family farming in America is in good hands, and that is due in no small part to the growing contributions of women in agriculture,” he said.
In 2007, women operated 14 percent of all U.S. farms, nearly triple the number in 1978. In some states, such as Arizona, female operators comprise nearly half the state’s farmers, although Texas boasts the most female farmers overall.
Johnson noted that many years ago, NFU recognized the important and growing role of women in agriculture – both as leaders and as principal farm operators – and had women elected to leadership positions within the organization as early as 1906.
“NFU, since its founding in 1902, has understood the importance of women having a strong voice in agriculture,” said Johnson. “The organization’s long history of having women in leadership positions and advocating for women’s voting rights, both within the organization and in local, state and national government, has allowed NFU to provide a more progressive and balanced voice for all family farmers for more than a century.”