University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


The United States Agricultural Census show that between 2002 and 2012, the number of women farm operators in Arkansas grew 14% (from 19,856 to 22,637). These women operators have made up an increasingly larger percentage of all farm operators in the state (from almost 29% to nearly 33%). There is little published information regarding changes over time in the role of women in agriculture, their challenges, and factors important to their success. While some surveys of farm women have been conducted, these surveys are generally insufficient because data exist only for one point in time. This research uses the first, middle and last years of survey data collected across ten years (2005-2014) at Arkansas Women in Agriculture (ARWIA) conferences to compare women’s perceptions regarding: 1) factors important to their choice of business activity, 2) challenges women face in their agriculture-related business, and 3) the decision-making roles they hold in that business. Results suggest that women in Arkansas agriculture engage in important decision-making on the farm. These women consistently identified across all three years, three attributes—applying talents and skills directly, being involved in the community and being excited about the work—as important factors in their decision to choose an agricultural career. They also identified two problems—keeping good employees and finding/affording a good lawyer—within the top five of the largest challenges faced. It is hoped that this set of baseline information can be useful not only to researchers and educators interested in addressing needs of local women but also in illustrating the continuing changes in women’s roles and their needs, and thus the need for extended research over time to address these changes.