(UR) It’s no secret: The United States is facing a looming farming crisis. Due mostly to the aging population of current farmers, the United States is about to experience a sudden drop off in the number of people who run small- and medium-sized farms. But it isn’t just a demographic issue, and there are many barriers keeping people away from the vastly important trade. Among these obstacles are the high cost of running or starting a farm and resistance from industrial agriculture, itself. There may, however, be a relatively simple solution: gender.
Despite gender being one of the major obstacles to rapidly increasing the number of farmers worldwide, there are a growing number of women who are interested in taking active and leadership roles in farming. With the percentage of women farmers having recently seen drastic gains, including and encouraging more women to farm might provide an easy and obvious solution to the inevitable problem. Unfortunately, if the hurdles for male farmers are difficult to overcome, women face even harsher impediments.
Gender bias in agriculture is not specific to the U.S. In fact, the global trend appears to favor male farmers, especially in terms of farm ownership and leadership. In America, women who are interested in farming face sexual discrimination and harassment as well as exclusion from nearly all levels of the industry that males just don’t have to deal with. For women, one possible solution to this bias appears to be in their gender, itself.
By building their own social, educational, and professional support system, a group of American dairy farmers are finding it much easier to thrive in the male-dominated sector. Facing additional barriers to becoming farmers, women have begun looking to themselves rather than traditional, male social organizations for support and inspiration. More importantly, by working together with like-minded people who live similar experiences, the group is able to share knowledge that can lead to mutual success.
Given the growing number of women interested in farming, the fewer gender-based barriers there are to the trade the more balanced it will become. With the alternative being a shortage of farmers that leads to the end of the farming industry in the US, the solution is clear: the more women the better. Perhaps then, when the statistics are balanced enough, the gender bias in farming can be weeded out entirely.
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