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USDA: Farm Numbers Decline, But Not for Women

December 16, 2010

HELENA, Mont. - The face of agriculture is changing, as more and more women get involved in starting new agricultural businesses, developing new business models, and adopting new ideas in production and distribution. Tracking by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that the number of farms has been declining in Montana, and across the country, but there is one demographic in which that trend has been reversed: for women. Farms owned and operated by women are up 30 percent in the past few years.

Lisa Kivirist, director of the Rural Women's Project for the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), says one reason might be that women are championing locally-grown food and specialty foods, which tap into market trends, and that opportunities for women in farming have never been better.

"We see this movement of wanting to reconnect with the way things used to be, when you could buy your eggs from your neighbor down the road: and how can we rekindle that in today's world, is the challenge ahead of us."

Kivirist predicts that the number of farm businesses and other agricultural ventures owned by women will continue to grow and play a role in the future of the food system.

"You're going to see more women intentionally starting these types of businesses that really have the potential to transform how we eat, and what food we'll end up with, in anything from our kids' cafeteria trays to our home dinner plates."

Women are the principal operators of about 5,000 farms in Montana, according to USDA.

Agriculture statistics are at www.agcensus.usda.gov

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT