Number of women in agriculture growing: Quarles

Conference celebrates the growing voice on the family farm

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Recognizing the importance of women in Kentucky’s farming sector, Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles spoke Monday at the annual Kentucky Women in Agriculture annual conference in Lexington, a day before the state officially celebrates “Kentucky Women in Agriculture Day,” on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

“Anytime women find a seat at the table in any profession, it’s a win,” Commissioner Quarles said. “That follows true in agriculture, as well. Recent survey data has shown women make up nearly 40 percent of our producers. I was happy to join Kentucky Women in Ag today to help celebrate the contribution our female producers have to our farm economy.”
KWIA’s membership is comprised of women who own and operate farms and agribusinesses, as well as agriculture entrepreneurs, state and federal personnel, ag educators and students, and consumers. The annual conference provides attendees with the opportunity to network and nurture a recognized agriculture and agribusiness community. By empowering women through education, involvement, and action, KWIA has a positive influence on Kentucky agriculture.
That influence is important, as the number of female farmers in Kentucky keeps growing. In 2017, 42,946 women farmed in Kentucky, up 36.7 percent from the number identified in the previous 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) census. Of those, 33,550 were involved in making day-to-day decisions on the farm, 26,215 were the principal producers on their farms, and 12,648 listed farming as their primary occupation, the census found.
KY says it is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create programs to encourage women in agriculture field.
“Programs that help empower women, especially when it comes to breaking in to an industry that sometimes is associated with men,” says Quarles.
The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land – whether rural or urban – growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals. The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. USDA will start collecting information for the next census in 2022.
The University of Kentucky is also seeing growth of women in agriculture. Chad Niman, the Primary Forest Product Specialist at UK, graduated from UK’s college of agriculture 10 years ago and says the number of females in the program has grown exponentially since his time there.
“I do believe we’ve seen some growth and excitement as well as some really great leaders that have come out of some of these classes,” says Niman.
KWIA says these women need a voice, which is what the organization hopes to provide through networking opportunities like Monday’s conference.
“We’re already in discussion right now about including a mentorship program attached to this Kentucky Women in Agriculture conference so that females who may not have had that mentor growing up can be placed with someone across the state to say ‘yes, you can start your own business’, ‘yes, you can start your own farm’,” says Quarles.
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