So, why does Arizona get to lay claim to the largest number of female farmers?
Arizona holds the highest percentage of female producers (farmers and ranchers) at 49%, the national average is 36%, according to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture. The Navajo Nation counties of Apache, Coconino and Navajo account for 62% of Arizona’s total farms, with Navajo and Hopi tribes centered around a matriarchal society, with the woman listed as primary owner.
We do have a class of non-American Indian female farmers, but the vast majority are women from the Navajo and Hopi tribes.
Arizona has a remarkably large population of American Indian producers, at 19,481 by the latest Census count. What does this translate into?
This all means we have the largest concentration of American Indian farms in the nation in Arizona.
The USDA Census reports these 19,000+plus American Indian farmers are producing on 11,729 Arizona farms, amounting to 59.4% of all producers.
Most are subsistence farms: raising crops and livestock for just their families and neighbors, in addition to growing ceremonial corn.
So, this spotlight on Arizona’s American Indian farmers highlights the small family farm then?
- Reservation agriculture in Arizona is not one size fits all. Some of the American Indian Farm families farm large tracts of land.
- Plus, there are several reservations where tribes lease most of their agricultural lands to non-Indian farmers.
- In other areas, tribal members grow small acreages of crops or raise small herds of livestock but most agricultural activity on these reservations comes from the leasing situations.
- Tribes that have large commercial tribal farms or ranches are another type of American Indian agriculture. These reservations may also lease land to farmers or ranchers.
- In fact, nearly 21 million farm acres in Arizona are tended to by producers on the state’s twenty-plus American Indian tribes and nations. This accounts for nearly 80 percent of all land in farms in Arizona.
Culturally this is certainly significant. But the research indicates even more.
- In the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture (done every 5 years), Arizona had 20,005 farms and ranches listed. In the previous census (2007) the number was 15,637. Why the large increase? The USDA finally got around to counting every subsistence farm and ranch on tribal lands, a unique cultural and historical distinction for our state. Through the 2002 census, reservations were counted as a single farm and individual producers within the boundaries of the reservation were not counted.
- To correct this undercounting for the 2007 census, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) worked with other USDA agencies and several national American Indian groups to change the census data collection process.
With nearly 14,500 farms, the Navajo Nation is by far the largest reservation in the United States. The Navajo Nation includes parts of New Mexico and Utah and covers nearly 17 million acres.
- But, unlike the farmers who farm off the reservations, the Navajo Nation producers focus much more on sustenance than on commercial farming.
- Even though the Navajo farms within the Arizona border are small, the flip side of this story resides in New Mexico where one of the largest commercial farms is held by the Navajo tribe; 72,000 acres. Their Brand is Navajo Pride.
Arizona agriculture has several fascinating statistics and great diversity. Our female farmers and American Indian farmers tell the most amazing story