Women are more prominent than ever before in the agricultural community. Single women, in particular, are beginning to enter non-traditional work force areas such as farming. Women are now managing their own farms, increasing their responsibility on the family farm and are being recognized for the work they have been doing for years. A report released by the New England Agricultural Statistics Service in February 1999 indicated, “Female operators represented 15.1% of New England’s farms, up from 13.8% in 1992.” They also write, “Maine’s 819 female operator [numbers] were up 12 percent from 1992 and represented 14 percent of the state’s farms. Almost 94 percent of Maine’s farms fell under the USDA definition of ‘small farms’ with sales below $250,000.”
Groups are assembling throughout the United States to support women in the agricultural community, specifically in the northeastern United States. One such organization is the Maine Women’s Agricultural Network, or WAgN.
The group’s most recent efforts include designing and producing an informational brochure about Maine WAgN, conducting a needs assessment, and creating a presence in the Maine agricultural community. In the fall of 1998, WAgN hosted a forum that brought agricultural representatives from University of Maine together for a panel discussion; a second forum is planned for this fall. WAgN also gives presentations and staffs informational booths at agricultural events; in 1999, it will attend the Maine Agricultural Trade Show, the Presque Isle Agricultural Trade Show, the Tenth Anniversary Open Farm Day, and the Common Ground Fair. Future objectives include locating funds to expand and support its work and developing strategies to ensure WAgN’s sustainability and survival for the next five years.
The benefits of membership include the opportunity to network with people who have similar experiences and interests, a safe learning environment, sharing educational and job opportunities, and an overall feeling of empowerment. Membership is open to everybody.
For more information about Maine WAgN, please contact Vivianne Holmes at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension at 1-800-287-1458.