Digital Ag Supports a Growing Force of Female Farmers

The digital agricultural revolution combined with a new, growing force of female farmers is reshaping the ag sector for a stronger, more diversified, resilient and innovative future.

Chalk it up to partly my own experience growing up as a young woman in a family farm enterprise, but I have a special place in my heart for watching women in agriculture thrive using Granular’s digital tools.

Digital ag and data-driven farm management software tools are a game-changer for women looking to compete in what has typically been seen as a man’s job. The timing is perfect — the digital revolution in agriculture is happening at the same time we are experiencing an explosion of women in farming.

Female-run farms are on the rise across the United States. The 2017 USDA census numbers found female farm operators increased by 23% since 2012 (more than 200,000 new farms with women involved) while at the same time, total farms in the U.S. dropped by 3%. There are fewer farms overall, but many more women are involved in the farms we do have.

In the meantime, agriculture is going increasingly digital.

I’m not arguing that the “Farm 3.0” revolution works better for women than men. It doesn’t, and digital farm management tools are inherently gender-neutral. But that’s why it is so empowering for women. In the last several centuries of agricultural advances, this is the first time that we have experienced a significant shift in agricultural methodology using a tool that wasn’t designed, specifically, with men in mind.

For women as passionate about farming as their male counterparts are, that’s where the opportunity lies — a chance to level what has traditionally been a male-dominated agricultural playing field by taking advantage of a tool that can work just as well for women as it can for men.

Farming in a Male-Dominated Sector

Women farmers are on the rise, but men are still dominant in agriculture.

Small inconveniences — like trying to find farm-tough clothes accommodating female curves — or more significant frustrations — like equipment designed for male hands and strength — point to unfortunate gender stereotypes that women aren’t naturally as ‘good’ at farming as men. Or they can’t succeed without male help.

In the U.S., female farmers are younger than male farmers, according to the 2017 USDA census. They are more likely to be beginning farmers, having operated their farm for 10 years or less than men, live on the farm they operate and are less likely to report farming as their primary occupation. Woman farmers need a competitive edge to develop their foothold in agriculture.

While more women are involved in farming than ever before, they are often doing so with a male partner. Ninety-one percent of farms in 2017 reported that they had at least one male partner in the farm operations and men still make the majority of vital decisions when it comes to farm operations. While men and women now have almost equal weight in financial, record-keeping, succession and estate planning decisions, men are still the primary decision-makers for farm land-use, crop, livestock and day-to-day decisions.

Women have “Come a long way, baby” in agriculture, but it is still a man’s sector. That’s why female farmers know that to succeed, they will need all the tools available at their disposal. I can’t think of a better, more versatile one than digital.

Digital Tools Help Women Farmers in Many Ways

In my team’s work helping Granular’s customers implement digital in their farming operations, we’ve worked with women using Granular’s software tools to achieve many different goals.

We’ve helped a woman running a highly diversified cropping system use Granular Business to make deeply informed decisions about her crop mixes, varietals and rotations. Another young female farmer uses our AcreValue program to deliver in-depth reporting for her family farm’s lease and land negotiations to a peer group of older, male land-owners. A female Territory Manager for Corteva uses Granular Insights to assess the performance of seed and scout potential issues throughout the season with her customers and team. We also help female CSA’s (Certified Service Agents) work closely with farmers using our Agronomy software to provide variable rate seeding and fertility recommendations.

Men can certainly use digital tools in these same ways too. However, these tools create credibility for women and give them a subtle edge they often need to get past gender barriers.

I also work with women that have held down the “office” role of their family farm for years but were, frankly, never fully utilized to the best of their abilities until they digitized the farm office. I’ve watched the shrewd and savvy matriarchs of the farm’s office glory in their new ability to track expenses, analyze trends and capture opportunities for things like volume input buys or the best time to sell off harvests. Suddenly the office is a lot more than the place to leave the receipts, but instead, essential to the farm’s success.

Digital Tools Help Women Communicate their Value to the Farm

Digital tools give women working in farming operations the ability to validate the importance of their voice in farm management.

Digitally connecting the field and the office with a mobilized workforce captures and monitors their activities, the budget and the plan. Women use this data-fueled foundation to provide their perspective on how to manage the farm business.

With digital, men and women can evaluate the performance of seed and crop protection on land profitability, their lease agreements, verify the accuracy of invoices and deliveries and much more. Digital tools create a connected workforce and a platform for farm management communication and decision-making that is verifiable and irrefutable.

No matter where women work on the farm, data collection validates their work and communicates the benefits of their efforts, giving women a new voice at the farm management table.

Women Have a Larger Role to Play in the Future of Ag

The last significant generational shift of farms went primarily from male to male ownership. There were many reasons for that, but mostly it came down to the societal expectation for farmers to be men, not women. Like many things in the modern-day world, that’s an assumption that’s changing and gender roles are blurring. It’s safe to say we will see many more female farmers in the future.

If women have anywhere near the impact on farming that they have had in other sectors, more women involved is a promising trend for agriculture as a whole. Despite only owning 25 percent of U.S. small businesses, women entrepreneurs generate higher revenue, create more jobs, improve start-up performance, and have a larger appetite for growth than their male-run counterparts. That’s why I know agriculture will be stronger, more diversified and more resilient by relying on more women.

No matter what gender you are, farming is a tough enterprise. It takes a relentless effort to pull off a profitable year. Whether it’s a farm run by a woman, or stronger farm partnerships between women and men, digital ag tools help women be a more influential force in farming.

I couldn’t be more pleased to help more women lead in the digital ag revolution.

See how you can thrive using Granular’s digital tools. Start your journey by visiting here.

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