Women Caring for the Land

By Woody Woodruff.

Farming as I know it has never been a one person job. Growing up on the farm, my brothers and sisters all played a role in getting the work done. Since my father worked a full time job to pay for the land purchases and farmed when he was not working at his full-time position, my mother often had to step in as farm manager. It was she who assigned chores and made sure they were finished in a timely manner. To us, she was the boss.

My mother is in her mid-eighties now and finally, after 30 years of training under her guidance, I’ve taken over as the boss.  At least that is what Mom and Dad say when there is work to do. I would have never been able to rise to the occasion without her though. She was without a doubt the one that taught me that a strong work ethic is the first rule of success on a farm. My goal in walking beans, from around age eight to not too many years ago, was to just not fall too far behind her as she pointed out the weeds I would continually miss. She has always been a sun up to sun down type worker. To this day she is the one who runs meals out to the combine so that we don’t have to slow down during harvest, and she is the one who has added the good business sense to most of our farming investments. Even with me in a management role now, Mom continues to play an important role in our farming operation.  She always has the final OK on the accuracy of the record books during tax time, and it’s been her standing rule to have me call her at the end of any harvest to let her know that the equipment is in the barn and animals fed and watered.  Everything I learned about hard work and sacrifice I learned from my mom. Patience in farming I get from my dad, but that’s another story. The fact is, women play a vital role in agriculture, and that role is steadily increasing.   Today approximately 165,000 farms are run by women, and demographic, social, and economic factors indicate that the number will keep rising. 

Jen Filipiak, who held the position of Conservation Associate at Illinois Stewardship Alliance for several years, now works at American Farmland Trust (AFT) with women landowners in a program called “Women Caring for the Land.” Please support Jen and AFT by attending these informative discussions on issues facing women land owners and managers. The workshops are being held around the state of Illinois as well as in many other states. These workshops are forming support groups of fellow women landowners to help them face the challenges that exist in their rural communities.  The next meetings in Illinois will be held on Thursday, August 21 in Reynolds and Thursday, August 28 in Lexington. Learn more about these workshops.


And while you’re here, check out this great article featuring a photographer who is capturing the face of women in agriculture and the stunning pictures to go along with it.