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There Are More Women Farmers Than Ever, But They Make Less Than Men. Why?

And we’re not talking about wives of farmers here: we’re talking land-owning, active farmers. And yet farms run by men, according to a great new feature in Pacific Standard, earn nearly twice as much as those run by women. That gender gap is as large or larger than any other type of business. So what’s going on?

Pacific Standard notes a few different issues. Some of those are easier to explain away: female-owned farms tend to be much smaller than male-owned farms. For the larger farms, earning $50,000 or more per year? 27 percent of male-owned farms qualify, but only 16 percent of female-owned farms. And almost a third are micro-farms, earning less than $1,000 a year.

Partly that can also be explained by the specific criteria the USDA uses. Female-owned farms, and very small farms in general, often sell what are called value-added products—basically, stuff made or processed from raw ingredients, rather than the raw ingredients themselves. That could include jams, breads, and cheeses, and those items aren’t always counted in USDA figures.

But there are more insidious, institutional reasons for the wage gap as well. A 2019 study of female farmers found instances of loan denial from governmental agencies, difficulty surviving amongst a largely male-dominated world (in terms of owners), and a general feeling of not being taken seriously. Given how difficult it is to start a farm—getting land is brutally hard—those feelings can result in a serious disadvantage in an industry where one person really can’t do it alone.

You can check out the whole article here.


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