The history of women in agriculture is one that not many people discuss. Research shows that since about 10,000 B.C., women have played a part in how we source and harvest our food. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much data on them – in some ways, they’re silent contributors. The number of female farmers surged during the 1940s, as men went off to fight in World War II. As of 2019, more than 1.2 million female producers were working on farms across America.
Women have helped maintain fields and crops since the turn of the 19th century. By the end of the Second World War, more than six million vacant farm jobs had been filled by young people and women alike. This happened across all industries in the United States. Almost every daughter, wife and friend jumped in where needed – some became engineers to work on radio transmission, while others found themselves in factories. Many of the women in agriculture during this time were apart of the Women’s Land Army of America, a program that provided training and uniforms.
When men came back from overseas, they reclaimed their previous positions. This meant that most women returned to childcare, education or administrative support duties. That said, by the late 1990s, the number of female farmers began to grow drastically — and it still continues to do so even despite the upswing in autonomous technology on farms. This is due to both changes in the U.S. Census and the destigmatization of what employment means. Women in modern times are more likely to call themselves “farmers” than in years past for these reasons.