Number of Women in Agriculture Industry is Increasing
As farmers begin wrapping up harvest, it's not just men in the combines, but women, too. According to American Agri-Women, there were over 230,000 farms operated by women in the U.S. in 2002. That's a 12.6 percent increase from 1997. And experts say that number continues to go up.
"My sister likes to say I've retired and started farming," said Greene County farmer Maria Cox.
Cox worked in the corporate world for almost a decade, before deciding to leave it all behind to work on the family farm in Greene County.
"It's been a really big change, but a really good change. I think I'll look back on it as the best decision I ever made," said Cox.
Cox earned her bachelor's degree in ag business and master's in ag economics. She said there were many other women in her agriculture classes--a trend she thinks will continue.
"I think we see more women in agriculture every day. I studied ag business in college and a lot of my classmates--I'd say more than half of them were women, and all of my sorority sisters from college are working in agriculture now. So I think moving forward we'll see a lot more women in the business world of agriculture, but also more in the production world, too," said Cox.
Those involved with Illinois Agri-Women say they're also seeing an uptick of women working in the agriculture industry.
"When I started working for the Farm Service Agency a few years ago, there were probably only a handful of women in the professional positions, and now I'd say in our county, we see half and half female and male," said Mary Kirby of Illinois Agri-Women.
Kirby said the agriculture industry offers many opportunities that some women don't realize are available.
"We just want to let them know there's a world of different jobs out there, professional jobs for them in the ag field," said Kirby.
And for Cox, working in the ag field means spending time in the corn field.
"You'll get here seven in the morning and get the combine ready for the day and then I combine most of the day," said Cox.
Cox said her favorite part of farming is working with her family, and it means the world to her to be able to farm--just as the last six generations of her family have done. And farming isn't something she plans on leaving anytime soon.
"Well, my dad's been farming for 47 years. So I'll probably be farming for that long, too. If not longer," she said.
In Greene County, Lindsey Hess, ABC NewsChannel 20.Wednesday, April 23 2014, 11:23 AM CDT