Digging Deeper into the Numbers this Season

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted." -Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 

This verse in Ecclesiastes describes the heart and soul of agriculture. Women have always been involved in the patience and persistence required of agricultural work. Whether it be tending to the farm itself or contributing to the business side of the equation, women are valuable partners in this enterprise every step of the way. 

Let's take a moment to review the current numbers of women who are working in and studying agricultural disciplines during this season. 

Current statistics show that 31 percent of farmers are female with 14 percent of all principal operators registering as women. Women farm more than 301 million acres and have a $12.9 billion impact on the American economy. The state of Texas seemingly has the most women in farming, but Arizona is home to the highest proportion of women farmers at 45 percent of all farmers in the state. 

Women who do report themselves as principal operators are more likely than men to report farming as a secondary occupation. Only 4 percent of women principal operators registered as under 35 years of age compared to 6 percent of all principal operators. About a fourth of women who farm specialize followed by beef cattle/ranching and combination livestock farming. 

According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the 1.6 percent of individuals employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry .9 percent are women. The second highest to crop production, animal and production agriculture, the forestry industry (except for logging) is 21 percent female. However, this data also shows that women make around 83 percent of earnings as compared to their male counterparts. 

Enrollment in agriculture and natural resources degrees is up slightly from recent years, and continues to represent a steady segment of the total degree population with women earning 52 percent of bachelors degrees, 55 percent of master's degrees and 45 percent of doctoral degrees. The pipeline of women who continue to pursue agriculture and related degrees is consistent. 

Each season, whether we are preparing, planting or harvesting, we realize that there is a time and place for every part of life. 


Dr. Lauren Ledbetter Griffeth is an Extension Leadership Specialist at the University of Georgia. She is a former 4-H member who loved spending summers picking squash, blueberries, and peas with her grandmother in their garden. Lauren specializes in women's agricultural leadership and she and her husband are partners in a local vegetable business. Connect with Lauren on Twitter: @laurengriffeth. 

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