Women have long played a pivotal and often unseen role in Canadian agriculture. That role has traditionally been one of support, from doing the books and helping with chores, to raising the family or whatever else was needed behind the scenes.
Less common was women actively running or managing farm businesses or participating in leadership roles.
But that’s increasingly changing, as the latest Census of Agriculture numbers suggest.
For the first time since 1991, when the census first collected gender data, the number of female farmers has increased to 30% of the farm population. As we mark International Women’s Day this week, it’s interesting for me to reflect on this evolution. I farm together with my husband and our children in Oxford County and I’m also a director on the board of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
When I was growing up on the farm, sales and service people wouldn’t be interested in speaking to my mother even though she did the books, paid the bills and spent her fair share of time on a tractor cropping or baling.
Today, our suppliers and service providers understand that I’m an involved partner in our family business and speak to both of us equally. I know that is not yet every woman in agriculture’s experience, but the industry has definitely come a long way.
The OFA currently has both a female president and a female general manager, and I share the board table with both female and male directors.
There is still room for change.
My advice to girls and women considering a career in agriculture is to just go for it.
It’s not always an easy road, so finding a mentor, a good group of friends or other supports is helpful. Taking leadership training is also valuable.
Women have always been in the background of agriculture, but we’ve proven that we’re very capable to be at the forefront of farming too.