Female farmers on the rise
More women than ever are taking on essential roles in American agriculture. Nationwide, over the past 10 years the number of female farm operators increased 14 percent, and the number of female principle farm operators increased 21 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture.
“I’m happy to see that more women are taking the lead in farms and ranches,” said Mickey Killingsworth, owner and operator of a sheep ranch in Madras. Killingsworth serves as Oregon Farm Bureau’s 4th vice president and chair of the OFB Women’s Advisory Council.
“Today when I go to town to make a big order of fertilizer or buy farming equipment, I don’t get asked where my husband is. It’s not so unusual to be a female farmer anymore, which is a positive for agriculture,” she said.
Here in Oregon, women farmers and ranchers are involved in raising each of Oregon’s 220+ agriculture commodities, from sheep to dairy cows, hazelnuts to Christmas trees, and vegetables to nursery products.
Angela Bailey, OFB 2nd vice president, is the primary day-to-day operator of Verna Jean Nursery, located outside of Portland.
“My mom Verna Jean Hale started the nursery in 1967,” said Bailey. “She was a woman who worked in agriculture her entire life, who was not bound by any preconceived notions of what she should be and certainly was not slowed down by any barriers to success. I knew from watching my mother that my gender would not be a disadvantage when I took over the nursery.”