Women in Agriculture & Ranching
I've noticed that when some people, even those of my own generation, ask me about my family's business and land that they only ask in reference to my dad. I know that many people are open-minded, and are aware of the way the world is changing as far as 'male' and 'female' roles in all aspects of life, including farming and ranching. However, there still seems to be a stereotype among many people about who farmers and ranchers are, and that they are all men.
I, as a young female, working alongside my dad when it comes to all aspects of ranching. My mom, dad, and I all play a crucial role in ensuring that things on our ranch run smoothly. Whether it's fixing fences, rotating and caring for cattle, or troubleshooting an electrical problem, we all have crucial, integrated roles to play. I participate not only in caring for our livestock, but also in the physical labor of the farm and decision making. It is helpful to have multiple perspectives when making decisions, as it allows us to better explore all options. My education in Animal Science Livestock Management adds yet another perspective to that of my mom and dad's.
Women have been surging forward into new territories in society for a long time now. There has never been a question of ability when it comes to women, it's just been a matter of opportunity. According to the Women's Bureau, women 16 years of age and over make up 47% of the total U.S. labor force, and according to the Washington Post, 64% of mothers with children under age 6 were either employed or actively looking for work. One thing that I love about farming, especially when looking at my own future, is that it presents a unique opportunity for mothers to both be at home with their children and earn an income.
The college where I received my degree in Animal Science, the University of Wisconsin River Falls, was formerly an all-men's college. According to the Office of Institutional Research, the enrollment of students was 61% women as of 2017. River Falls has a huge agricultural program, and there is no lack of women within this program. I am proud to have been one of them.
According to the Smithsonian, in the early 1960's when NASA was testing potential astronauts on their ability to handle the conditions of going to space, Dr. Randy Lovelace tested women as well as men. The women outperformed men in numerous aspects of the study, but by 1962 the study was scrapped. Sexism beat out the facts. Women did not stop fighting, however. As of 2018, there are 59 women who have made the journey to space!
During WWII, when all of the men had left for the war (alongside 350,000 women who enrolled in the Armed Forces during this time), someone needed to do the "men's" work at home. People were needed in factories more than ever, and women did not disappoint. They rolled up their sleeves, stepped into what were traditionally men's roles, and got the job done.
Similarly, the women of today are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on farms and ranches all over the U.S. According to the USDA, 31% of American Farmers are women, and they have a $12.9 billion-dollar impact! My point is not to argue whether women or men are better suited for a job, or that one is more important than the other. My point is that everyone plays a critical role, including women.
Ladies - please feel free to comment and share your own experience as a women in agriculture or ranching! Guys, we'd love to hear your thoughts as well.