Since 1982, the total number of farms has decreased by nearly 15 percent, but the number of
female-owned farms has increased, says Janet Allen, with USDA’s
National Agricultural Statistics Service.
|Year||Number of farms|
Male-operated farms are more common in all age groups, except above 65. Thirty-six percent of
female farm operators are age 65 or older, with 26.3 percent being over 70 years of age.
|Age||Percentage of Farms||Percentage of Farms|
|25 to 34||4.4||6.9|
|35 to 44||16.2||19.7|
|45 to 54||22.1||24.6|
|55 to 59||10.5||11.8|
|60 to 64||9.9||10.8|
|65 to 69||9.8||9.4|
|70 and over||26.3||15.7|
Allen says women tend to manage smaller farms in terms of both size and sales. For example,
only 18.3 percent of women-operated farms had sales of more than $25,000 in 1997, as compared
to 36.9 percent of their male counterparts.
Women also tend to run more livestock specialty operations, like goat and horse farms. While smaller
in farm size and sales, women are more likely to own their operations. Allen says nearly 80 percent
of women operators fully own their farm or ranch, compared to 58 percent of the men. Farming is the
principal occupation of 45.5 percent of the women-operated farms as compared to 50.7 percent of the
Allen says that, while data seem to show that agriculture may be the most male-dominated profession in
American, there are many questions about whether this portrayal is truly representative of women’s
role in farming. For the 2002 Census of Agriculture, more information will be gathered on multiple
farm operators, thus providing more data on women’s participation in agriculture.