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Women in Agriculture: Celebrating their Impact August 2, 2013

Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau


The 2007 Census of Agriculture revealed that women had a growing presence in U.S. agriculture. In some ways, they always did but the Census in 2007 tried to determine the percentage of women actually running the farm or ranch, operating more land or producing greater value of agricultural products than they’d done in the previous agriculture census that’s taken every five years (which means we should have even newer numbers soon).


Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators counted in the 2007 Census, 30.2% ─ more than 1 million ─ were women with an operation role in the farm or ranch. As a result, the total number of women operators increased 19% from 2002, significantly outpacing the 7% increase in the number of farmers overall. The number of women who were the principal operators of a farm or ranch increased by almost 30%, to 306,209. AS a result, women are now the principal operators of 14 percent of the nation’s 2.2 million farms.


The USDA census also found that when compared to all farms nationwide, those with female principal operators tend to be smaller both in terms of size and sales. However, women are more likely to own all the farmland that they operate.


I can think of a handful of Arizona female farmers right off the top of my head as I read this statistic. One of my favorite organic, retail farmers that owns and runs her own operation is Kelly Saxer of Desert Roots Farms. After getting her masters in business from Arizona State University, Saxer decided to start and run a community supported agriculture model for her farm and it’s been a success from day one. Saxer is also a member of Arizona Farm Bureau.


Carolyn Hardison and Sharman Hickman hang out with Sherry Saylor, who was keynote speaker at Arizona's latest Women's Leadership Conference. The women represent a cross-section of women in agriculture.

On her Facebook page, you can read her latest information about her farm: “Our veggie vans are loaded with CSA bags and we’re hitting the streets….watch out! Lots of goodies headed your way: watermelon, carrots, sweet onions, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, and arugula, tomatoes (red and yellow pear). I hope we’re coming to see you! If not, why don’t you join us and you’ll have your own bag as soon as next week.”


And, get this, the states with the highest percentage of female principal farm operators are Arizona, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Alaska.


Thanks Kelly Saxer and other women for launching incredibly wonderful farm businesses with unique markets in mind. I’m very excited to see how the numbers turn out for the latest census that’s been complete. USDA is now in the thick of tabulating the results.

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1. Tammy - August 8, 2013

What a terrific post! We’ve had our CSA with Kelly for years. We are so thankful for her and for the other women that you highlight.