Farm women generate more than $397 million

By Sheila McCoy
Staff Writer
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About 26 percent of the farms in Minnesota are led by women and have an economic impact of over $397 million per year. Pictured is Lisa Baker, who owns and operates her own organic vegetable farm in Avon. She is one of many women in agriculture.
About 26 percent of the farms in Minnesota are led by women and have an economic impact of over $397 million per year. Pictured is Lisa Baker, who owns and operates her own organic vegetable farm in Avon. She is one of many women in agriculture.

In February, the Minnesota Extension initiated a new program, specifically for women in agriculture, called “Women in Ag.”
“My cohort, Betty Berning, and I saw a need for it. There are different events happening in the state, but we wanted to take those educational offerings to the next level, to move from an introductory level to a more advanced,” said Pauline Van Nurden, Minnesota Extension educator. “They are a hard-working group that is not necessarily in the spotlight, but is looking for education to better their farming establishments, as well.”
Quarterly workshops and an annual conference allow women to network with fellow ag women and learn more about a pre-selected topic.
In June, the Extension held a workshop focused on farm transfer and estate planning. It was a topic many were interested in, since it is not uncommon for a farm to be transferred to the next generation.
“It helps them to understand more of the process,” Van Nurden said.
Since the events are geared toward women, Van Nurden believes it encourages women to ask questions without possibly feeling intimidated by other seasoned farmers, who already know the topic in depth.
“It forms a closer network between the women. Our hope is that they continue the connections they make beyond the workshops and are able to engage with other people that are in similar operations or have a similar background,” she said.
Even though the events are hosted at various locations in Central Minnesota, women from all directions, from far north, east, west and south, have attended.
“Anyone from anywhere can attend. We’ve had attendance from a wide area, which we are very thankful for,” Van Nurden said.
Van Nurden said that at the events the Extension attempts to provide relevant information for a large segment of the Minnesota farm community. Few realize that about 28,000 women farm in Minnesota and that about 26 percent of the farms in the state are led by women according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The same agency also reports that women farmers in Minnesota have an economic impact of $397 million, Van Nurden said.
“It’s a growing segment across Minnesota and across the nation. We’re looking forward to working with this group that has a big impact on the state,” she said.
As a way to stay connected and updated on various events, Van Nurden said the Women in Ag program has its own Facebook page, called UMN Extension Women in Ag.
“We see more proactive involvement with that,” she said.
With a focus on farm safety, the next event will be held Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, at 46352 Minnesota 329, in Morris.
Those who would like to register, may visit z.umn.edu/safetyreg. For more information, call (320) 235-0726 ext. 2001.
The event fee of $20 is payable at the door, which includes morning treats and lunch.