The number of women farmers and ranchers is on the rise. The share of U.S. farms operated by women nearly tripled over the past three decades. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)supports female farmers and ranchers with a variety of programs.
Extension programs like the Annie’s Project help female farmers, like Sara Shepherd in Iowa, continue a family legacy of farming. Annie’s Project strengthens women’s roles in modern farm and ranch enterprises through a series of courses that focus on problem solving, record keeping, and decision-making skills. Shepherd said the program facilitated in-depth conversations with her father that allowed the passing of knowledge and experience from one generation to the next.
One Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) project, Green Heron Tools, developed a new line of garden tools to address the particular ergonomic needs of women’s bodies. After successfully completing Phase I, the company received Phase II funding in 2010. This SBIR assistance supported safety research and development in the production of HERShovel, a safer, scientifically-created alternative to standard unisex tools and tools made smaller solely for aesthetic purposes. HERShovel moved into SBIR Phase III soon after and is now available commercially.
The Beginner Farmer and Rancher Development Program, funded in the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, has awarded $90 million in grants in 48 states between 2009 and 2015 to support education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives that help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.