Chamber Chat - Lee Women in Agriculture

May 07

Meg Moss

 

Recently, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension- Lee County Center kicked off a nine part series with a new article and video released each month on the website www.leewomeninag.com. Each article and video profiles a different woman (or women) and their current role in agriculture and agribusiness; with other profiles looking at how agricultural influences have shaped and directed their life and/or career path.  
 

The video that kicks off the series says that “from the earliest days of American agriculture, women have been a cornerstone of everyday farm life. Because of recent shifts toward globalization of markets and an increased focus on operational efficiency, production and marketing; women are now more engaged than ever in the core business of agriculture as farm operators and strategic decision-makers.
 

According to the USDA, over the past 30 years the number of women-operated farms has more than doubled. In 2007, women operated 14 percent of all U.S. farms, up from 5 percent in 1978 with women-operated farms increasing in all sales classes, including farms with annual sales of $1 million or more.
 

And this is not just a national trend. More women have been emerging as movers and shakers right here in Lee County; taking important leadership roles in local agriculture by running their family farms, helping shape public policy, owning and operating small businesses and leading numerous agricultural organizations. Women play a prominent role across Lee County’s agricultural industry, and their numbers along with their influence continue to grow.”
 

The series will present stories that illustrate what women contribute to the business of farming, and the diverse roles they fill. It will also reflect on the impact agriculture has had on each woman’s life.
 

The video goes on to say that “many of the individuals profiled in this series are breaking stereotypes and illuminating the role of women in agriculture as a whole, strengthening and guiding the next generation of agricultural and community leaders. New ideas and perspectives are the precursors of growth and innovation in an industry that faces emerging challenges as well as countless opportunities. Clearly, these women demonstrate they are well suited to play a leading role in reshaping the landscape of agriculture and agribusiness across Lee County.”
 

And speaking of local women, it was local 17 year old videographer/editor and Lee County 4-H member, Callie Steger, who shot and edited the footage for the videos featured on the website. 

 

In an article written by Chip Pate, owner of Pate and Associates, he quotes our Lee County Extension Director Bill Stone. Stone “In many ways, women are reshaping the landscape of agriculture and agribusiness.” Stone points to “leaders like Mandy Thomas Johnson, who is helping Gary Thomas Farms, her family operation, make a successful transition to larger-scale production.”

 

“Then there are others like Tina Gross, who are helping take agriculture in entirely new directions. Gross, who is co-owner of Gross Farms, also serves as president of the North Carolina Agritourism Networking Association, a nonprofit helping agricultural operations and events statewide attract visitors to the farm as a source of income.”

 

Pate’s article continues by stating that Minda Daughtry, a horticulture agent and another local woman reshaping the landscape, notes that 27 percent of all North Carolina farmers are now women and are working in roles such as agricultural executives, scientists, veterinarians and economists.

 

Daughtry believes that growth will continue in Lee County thanks to N.C. Cooperative Extension. “We’re working to present a complete picture of what women contribute to the business of farming and that should help attract even more to the industry. Because of the diverse roles women fill and the balancing act that requires, they have a complex blend of responsibilities.”

 

To learn more about this series by reading articles and watching videos, visit www.leewomeninag.com. 



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