Bob Glennon of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries teaches third graders about native Virginia plants during Greensville County Farm Day at the Harrell Farm in Purdy in October.

In Virginia, 36% of primary farm operators are female, noted Susan Harrell of Greensville County, who also serves on the VFBF Women’s Committee.

“With the increase in technology, women not only manage the finances but play a bigger role by actively running equipment and machinery on an equal scale with their counterparts,” Harrell explained. “Hurdles and stereotypes still exist mainly because of the physical aspect of the job.”

Making up more than one-third of American farmers and ranchers, women have a significant role in agriculture business, leadership and advocacy.

To help evaluate their achievements and goals, the American Farm Bureau Federation recently conducted an informal survey of more than 3,000 women across all avenues of agriculture.

The survey found an overwhelming majority of participants, 91%, believe there should be more women in leadership roles, allowing for an accurate representation of the modern agriculture community. In addition, 98% believe they have the skills, knowledge and experience to fill leadership roles.

“It is extremely important to recognize and support women in agriculture business and leadership roles, because they are in a position to help advance our industry,” said Kristal Harris of Pittsylvania County, a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Women’s Committee. “They are also role models for younger generations of girls who may want to work in the ag industry or be a farmer.”

Seventy-five percent of survey participants identified themselves as leaders at the local level, 50% are leaders at the state level and 26% are leaders at the national level.

They said the most important skills needed for leadership are the abilities to communicate effectively, motivate others and manage conflict.

“Networking with other men and women who are involved with agriculture would also benefit women wanting to step into leadership roles,” Harris added.

Women are a vital part of ag businesses nationwide. More than half of those surveyed started a business that is still in operation today, and 25% do not have their own businesses but want to start one in the future.

In addition to being business savvy, 95% of survey respondents reported they advocate for agriculture. More than half are actively involved in at least one ag organization, and 93% believe they have the skills and knowledge necessary to make an impact.

“Women are important advocates for agriculture and farming because they offer a different perspective of this industry to consumers,” Harris observed.