HERitage: Strong Hands & a Caring Spirit

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My grandmother took charge of our family farm not just to honor its legacy, but to protect its future.

1.2 million. That’s the most recently recorded amount of female farm operators, according to the 2017 USDA Ag Census. This doesn’t include nearly half a million more female non-operating landowners out there, with this number steadily increasing over the last twenty years—totaling 1.7 million women who are responsible in different ways for the growth of America’s farmland. If you’re a female landowner, the biggest thing you should take away from these statistics is that you’re not alone. Each and every female landowner just like you is diligently taking ownership and discovering what they need to do to make sure their land is nurtured and well-cared for.

A personal connection

While researching what little is known about women landowners, sweet memories came to mind as I reminisced about my grandfather’s farm in central Illinois. A tough-as-nails man whose parents began our humble farm after immigrating from Germany, his passion throughout life was making sure the farm was providing for his family. After he passed, he entrusted the farm into hands stronger than his: my grandmother’s.

Knowing he would be unsettled, and quite frankly, ticked off if he looked down from heaven and saw his farm not up to his high standards, my grandmother took her new job very seriously. She went from baking delicious pies to negotiating with other family members and local operators to find the right person to work with her to honor my grandfather’s legacy of farm livelihood. After she chose the new farmer, each year, she invited the operator and his family over for dinner to celebrate harvest and discuss next year’s plan for the farm. In her eyes, she was not only respecting my grandfather and our farm family, but also providing a utility to the farmer’s family as well.

Lauren's grandmother on her farm in central IL.

Caring for the land

My grandmother truly valued what the American Farmland Trust has found to be the top priorities of female landowners: ensuring their farm is sustainable for the future and can continuously support farm families and farm communities. This does not mean my grandmother went without struggle; the farm crisis of the 1980s rocked her owner-operator relationship, a trend we are once again seeing in today’s agriculture economy. Communication was also difficult when layered on top of old-school, traditional bias, which unfortunately was and is still used to sometimes classify women as not belonging in the agriculture sector, thus creating extra barriers for female landowners.

Many times, and I can attest to this personally, women can feel unwelcome in generally male-dominated situations, such as owning and tending farmland. But today, no barrier should stop anyone from honoring their asset. There are many resources, organizations and advocates to help break down these barriers and ensure you and your farmland are not being taken advantage of. Proudly, Tillable is one of these organizations that stands behind female owners, honest operators and America’s farmland.

Tillable is on a mission to fairly female represent landowners like my grandmother and ensure any barriers that could be preventing your land from best serving the agriculture community are broken. All our landowners, regardless of male or female, receive a strong but fair working relationship with a professional farmer, the necessary data to keep their farms up-to-date and sustainable, and the resources they need to grow and pass along a family heirloom. Each day, I am reminded that my grandmother wasn’t just a number, and neither is any other female landowner. You may have been shocked to learn that there are 1.7 million women operating and often owning farmland, but please remember: it’s 1.7 million and you.

This is the second in a series of articles highlighting women in farmland ownership. Read the first installment here.

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