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New research suggests that female farms are more likely to be found in areas near urban centers, with the average female farm size being less than 50 hectares.
While women can be drawn into farming for many reasons, researchers at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences found that female-owned farms in the United States are more common in areas closer to, and agrotourism, urban markets offer better access to childcare.
The number of women-run farms has increased over the past two decades, said Claudia Schmidt, assistant professor of marketing and local / regional food systems.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture changed the way it counts farm operators in its most recent farm census, allowing up to four main operators per farm. This has increased the number of female operators somewhat, but the participation of women in agriculture is still at an all-time high, according to Schmidt.
„This type of research is needed not only for the sake of equity, but also to support a more diverse and resilient agricultural sector in general,” Schmidt said.
“Without knowing more about how women farmers make decisions, agricultural service providers have had to make assumptions about the types of information and products that are useful to them.
„Our analysis highlights some of the ways in which female-owned farms are unique and provides important insights into how best to care for this population.”
Using data from the US Agricultural Census From 2002 to 2017, Schmidt and her colleagues developed a statistical model to examine the relationship between a county’s share of women-run farms and the conditions in the county. Her goal was to shed light on aspects of the local economic and agricultural ecosystems most closely linked to female-owned farms.
„We wanted to understand why women are attracted to agriculture,” said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics and director of the Northeastern Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD).
“Is it because they want to do this type of work, or is it because they are being pushed into agriculture due to the lack of other local economic opportunities?
„We also wanted to investigate how local agricultural conditions – what agriculture looks like in a given place in general – are related to the participation of women in agriculture.”
The analysis, recently published in Food Policy, shows that more female-owned farms are being found where the average farm size is less than 50 acres, where the annual farm turnover averages less than $ 10,000 per farm where there are more farms specializing in the grazing of sheep or goats and where agritourism activities that attract visitors to farms are more common.
The researchers also found that direct sales to consumers were more common in counties with more female-owned farms. It is therefore not surprising that high-density urban areas have more female-owned farms than rural areas, Goetz said.
„Our results suggest that women are more likely to work in agriculture, which benefits from being in or near urban areas,” said Goetz.
“Urban and suburban locations not only offer more opportunities for direct marketing to consumers, but also offer better access to childcare than rural areas. Our research has shown that the availability of childcare correlates with the number of female farms in a county. „