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Daily Newscasts

The Future is Bright for WI Women in Agriculture

December 20, 2010

SPRING VALLEY, Wis. - It may well be "back to the future" for women in agriculture. While the number of farms is steadily declining, the number of farms owned and operated by women is up 30 percent in the past few years and steadily increasing.

Lisa Kivirist, director of the Rural Women's Project for the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), says one reason is that people are becoming more aware of where their food comes from.

"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 your cheese from the cheese factory down the road. How we can rekindle that in today's world is the challenge ahead of us."

Women are now the principal operators of over 9,000 farms in Wisconsin. The Rural Women's Project provides assistance, support and education to help women discover and exploit new markets for their products.

"You see everything from more restaurants wanting to purchase and use local foods, to the booming CSA side - Community Supported Agriculture - where people in a community will buy a share of a farm's produce, a farm's output for the season."

Wisconsin is among the top 10 states in the nation for farms operated by women. According to the Center for Women's Business Research, businesses owned by women continue to grow at double-digit rates.

Kivirist says this represents a huge change in agriculture. Women are using new and different business models to start agricultural businesses, she adds.

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

Opportunities abound in agriculture for women of all backgrounds, ages and interests, Kivirist says.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI