Tuesday, February 17, 2009
What do farm women want?
Tiffany Nichols knows what she wants in life
The famous question, “What does a woman want?” was asked and left unanswered by Sigmund Freud, and it’s one I can’t pretend to solve either.
But the question matters more than ever to ag journalists, agri-marketers and farmer advisers—all of us who need to communicate with female farmers.
One of the big surprises in the 2007 Census of Agriculture was the growth in the number of farm women. Women classified as "principal operators" increased by almost one third since the ’02 census. There were 306,209 female principal operators counted in 2007, up from 237,819 in 2002. And we know that beyond these primary operators, farm women have significant roles in the management of most of the nation’s farms and ranches.
When it comes to what they want in ag information, farm women appear to be all business, according to a recent Successful Farming magazine survey.
In the survey, farm women ranked 66 topics in the order of their interest. The five most popular topics were:
* Farm tax strategies and estate planning.
* Government farm programs and policy
* Home-based business for farm families
* Farm business management
* Making farms safer for kids/adults.
At face value, this list seems to suggest that women are hungry for information that will make their farms more secure, safe, and prosperous.
A female colleague of mine, a young woman who grew up on a farm, tells me she suspects that these women might be telling us what they think they ought to be reading, that is, that it’s their role to focus on financial security and safety. She points out that the women surveyed say their favorite Successful Farming feature is All Around the Farm, a collection of practical tips from farmers--the same page that is top-rated by all readers.
In the social media space, such as Agriculture Online’s Women in Agriculture forum, you get a little different picture. If you look at the list of discussion group topics there, you’ll see that business issues aren’t entirely ignored. But, recent hot topics include household management tips, food recipes, and personal and family issues.
Looking at the new social network for young and beginning farmers, Farmers for the Future, young women have staked out a lot digital turf on the site, and many of their interests parallel those of the men.
Today, in the network, for example, I found female farmers and ranchers commenting on topics like calving ease, finding land, and shopping for machinery online. Not much on things like recipes and housekeeping.
One young farm woman, Tiffany Nichols, writes in her profile page:
“I am in the process of taking over parts of the farm from my father. My younger brother and I plan to fully take over and grow the operation.”
What do farm women want? For Tiffany, it's the same thing her brother wants: to farm.
Posted by John Walter at 12:58 PM