This farmer pulled out in front of me at a stop sign. No, I didn’t honk my horn. He had the right of way, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride, cruising behind his tractor at 15 mph.
We live in Massachusetts, and there are some gorgeous farms here. Many are located in towns just outside Boston. According to 2010 statistics from the USDA Economic Research Service, farms total 7,700 statewide and the average size is 67 acres. About 5,465 men and 2,226 women farm here. That’s about a 2:1 ratio between men and women. It’s impressive that so many women are accomplishing what’s often considered a ‘man’s job’ — besides being mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers.
My husband was raised on a Minnesota farm and loves the dirt there. I know that sounds weird, but occasionally, he’ll spout something like, “There’s no dirt like the rich, black soil in Minnesota.” He typically makes such pronouncements when he’s digging around our backyard and suddenly hits New England ledge.
Out of curiosity, I decided to compare the two states – Minnesota vs. Massachusetts. A little agricultural rivalry between the Midwest and East Coast is always fun. Minnesota has 81,000 farms. That’s more than ten times the number in Massachusetts, and they’re large, averaging 332 acres. A total of 73,631 men and 7,361 women are farmers there. The percentage of women farmers in Minnesota is lower compared to Massachusetts. But if you think about it, 7,361 women in one place could make a fair-sized town.
Farming is definitely big business in Minnesota, but Massachusetts also has a proud agricultural heritage with many dairy farms, livestock operations, cranberry bogs, apple orchards, pumpkin patches and even Christmas tree farms. Regardless of where we live, farms are vital to our national economy. They also provide us with beautiful scenery and bountiful harvests.
My mother-in-law was a farmer’s wife. A Philadelphia girl, she fell in love, married a Minnesota farmer, moved 1,300 miles away from her family and managed to raise four lively sons. She also tended fruits and vegetables, canned, sewed, cooked, and cleaned. She actively volunteered in her church and community and handled many other responsibilities. She traded city life for a challenging but rewarding life in a small farm community. When I think of my mother in law, I think of the frontier women who helped settle this country. She was a pioneer and a farmer in her own right.
So, hooray for our farmers — and especially for those strong, confident women who are successfully breaking the gender barrier and running farms. I say, “You go, girl!”
(Click on your state and discover some interesting agricultural facts from the USDA.)