Good offers stats from 2019 Women in Ag survey
PRINCETON — Ohio-raised Maggie Good, an assistant director of member engagement at the American Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C., addressed a crowd of farmers on Nov. 18 at the Westin Hotel during the 101st annual meeting of the New Jersey Farm Bureau. Good spoke about results from a recent survey of women in agriculture, in keeping with this year’s theme for NJFB of “Women in Agriculture.”
“I love the theme of your annual convention this year and it really came about at the perfect time,” Good said at the outset.
The Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee launched a survey of women involved in the agriculture industries this past March, with the hopes it would build programming opportunities and yield fresh ideas to help women in agriculture meet their goals through better training.
Of the survey conducted in March, “we were excited to have a 30 percent increase in responses to this survey,” Good said.
“We wanted to gauge the goals, aspirations, achievements and needs of all women in agriculture. New this year, we added in some policy questions. We promoted it to all women, whether they are working on a farm, working in the ag industry or going to Ag school,” she explained, adding AFBF wanted their input to help them become successful.
Results of the survey led AFBF staffers to ask several key questions: How can they use the results about encouraging more women to become engaged and step into leadership roles? And what barriers can be identified and addressed that are preventing women from stepping forward? Good said AFBF staffers received 3,000 responses from 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
“We believe these findings are significant,” she said, and they discovered just over one-third of respondents are farming full-time; the average age of respondents was 43, and 47 percent of respondents are under age 40.
“Ninety-two percent of respondents have some post-secondary education, with the largest percentage having a bachelor’s degree.
“We found over two-thirds of respondents feel women are not sufficiently represented in the ag industry, however, 98 percent of respondents feel that women have the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to fill leadership roles,” she said.
“Women continue to be a driving force in the business, whether on the farm or supporting households with an off-the-farm job.”
“We found 96 percent of respondents have one member of a household with a secondary source of income outside of farming. Just over half have started a business that is still operating,” Good said.
Top business challenges included prioritizing and finding time to accomplish tasks; acquiring financial support; building a marketing plan, and building a business plan.
“All of this knowledge paves the path for us to create new training opportunities around topics like time management, financial management and even estate planning,” Good said.
Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said they advocate for agriculture on a frequent basis, and 92 percent feel that they have all the tools they need in their tool box to be impactful when advocating, she said, adding, “that’s huge.”
“One thing that hit me in the face when I saw it: of those who indicated they were Farm Bureau members, only 52 percent of them said they are actively engaged with our organization,” she said. “So we have a large group of Farm Bureau members who are active advocates for agriculture and believe they have the skills to lead, but they have yet to be engaged by our organization.”
Good urged the women audience members at the annual meeting to go online and ‘like’ AFBF on Facebook and other ‘social’ media, “but we’ve also created a facilitators’ guide to go along with the report, designed to help county and state farm bureau’s come up with tangible solutions to some of the issues that have surfaced: topics include leadership, involvement and advocacy, and you can pull these activities out at your county and state board meetings.”
After Good concluded her remarks and engaged the crowd in a breakout session where they worked in small groups, discussing barriers to getting more women involved in Farm Bureau, state Farm Bureau president Ryck Suydam shared some remarks.
“The last question was how to get more women involved and we’ve heard it [the answer] already: just ask them,” Suydam said.
“It’s pretty simple and I think it might be easier here in New Jersey than it is in other parts of the country. So if there are people in your county and your town, [who may be interested,] go ahead and invite them to learn more about Farm Bureau or invite them to a Farm Bureau event,” Suydam said.
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