Michigan sees more farms in state run by womenDeWITT TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The number of Michigan farm acres where women are the primary operators has more than doubled in 30 years, fueled in part by new opportunities in small-scale farming, officials said.
DeWITT TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The number of Michigan farm acres where women are the primary operators has more than doubled in 30 years, fueled in part by new opportunities in small-scale farming, officials said.
The most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Michigan Field Office show about 552,000 acres were primarily managed by women in 2007, up from about 252,000 acres in 1978.
Meanwhile, the number of female principal farm owners has grown by about 6,000 in the same period to 8,275 in 2007.
“The increase I think is really because of new opportunities in small scale farming,” said Jay Johnson, director of the Michigan field office of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. “There's also been a collapsing gender barrier for women.”
The statewide figures are in line with national data that also show increases in the number of female farm managers. Two-thirds of Michigan farms operated by women are less than 50 acres, Johnson said, and about 60 percent grow a wide variety of crops.
“I started volunteering in farms as a way for me to travel and I was also curious about food and where it came from,” said Emily Freeh, 31, manager of nonprofit Community Based Intervention's Giving Tree Farm. “Then, I realized I liked it more and more and didn't want to stop doing it.”
More than 60 types of crops — from carrots and tomatoes to flowers and herbs — are grown at the farm north of Lansing in Clinton County's DeWitt Township.