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Women in Skilled Trades

Why Now Is the Time to Empower Women in Agriculture

Over a third of all U.S. Farmers are women and the American Farm Bureau (AFB) is helping women in agriculture step into leadership roles.

AFB has a Women’s Leadership Committee that mentors current and future females in farming. Sherry Saylor, a newcomer to the industry, chairs that committee. 

Saylor grew up a city girl, but married a farmer named Rick. The couple moved from South Carolina to Arizona and now have a farm of their own, R and S Farms, located 30 miles west of Phoenix. They grow alfalfa, an in-demand crop that feeds the region’s many dairy cows.

Saylor is proud to be a part of AFB’s role of getting women invested in the industry, and providing opportunities for personal growth and development.

“We need to empower women and give them the tools they need to establish leadership roles,” said Saylor, who admits that, in the beginning, she didn’t know how tough farming was or what was involved.

She quickly realized farmers have strong work ethics and need to be very knowledgeable about everything from farm technology, to planting, harvesting, and more.

“It’s often a seven day a week, 24 hour a day proposition from time to time, depending on the time of year,” she said.

Boot camp

Last year, the committee surveyed women in agriculture and found 98 percent of respondents believed they had the skills, knowledge, and experience to fill leadership roles in the industry. Plus, 91 percent agreed or strongly agreed that more women should be in leadership roles in the industry, and 92 percent reported feeling empowered to effectively advocate for agriculture.

Preparing women for leadership roles often starts at the Farm Bureau’s Women’s Communications Boot Camps, held twice a year.  So far, 210 women have participated in the boot camps, which train women to be advocates for the industry. 

Attendees learn targeted messaging, social media strategy, and skills for communicating with elected officials and the media.

“It’s so important that farmers and ranchers feel comfortable talking with legislators and consumers about how they raise the food we eat, in a safe and sustainable way,” said Maggie Good, coordinator of committee activities for the American Farm Bureau’s Women Leadership program. “Through all of these different trainings and workshops we provide, we create this very supportive community of women that encourage each other.

“One woman becomes empowered and they feel they can empower the next woman in line. It’s a ripple effect.”

Outreach and education 

That outreach and education spills over into the community and classrooms, teaching kids K-12 about agriculture.

“We’ve got to educate them because most kids are at least three generations removed from the farm and don’t really know where their food comes from,” said Saylor, who’s also a school counselor.

They want kids to know about careers in the industry too. A big misconception is that all jobs in agriculture involve farming, physical labor, and getting dirty.

“People don’t realize that there are so many other things they can do to support agriculture,” said Good, adding that colleges and vocational schools can train students for jobs in the industry.

For example, there are opportunities for scientists and researchers, veterinarians, attorneys, marketing and sales professionals, accountants, and more. Technology is a growing area too, considering the computers used in equipment, tracking chips on livestock, and sensors to measure soil moisture.


Both Saylor and Good advocate for women to mentor their peers. Good credits Saylor as her personal and professional mentor.

“Real life experience is so valuable in helping shape us and help us get to that next level of success or leadership or business,” said Good.

They also agree the agricultural community is very supportive of women. They’re excited to guide the next generation of female farmers.

“I think women have always been involved but I think they’re even more respected now,” said Saylor. “They have stepped up and become more involved.”

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