By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Communication, Ag Education and Marketing Director: Women as the primary owner/operator in agriculture are the fastest-growing demographic segment, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA). In Arizona, we really have the numbers to prove it. 

Here are some quick points from USDA's Census of Agriculture, Arizona statistics:

Considering the number of all women operators (not just as principal operators), Apache and Navajo counties rank #1 and #2 nationally with 4,498 and 3,152 women operators, according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.  Coconino County is #15 with 1,921 and Maricopa County is ranked #21 with 1,637 women operators.

Even in our largest Arizona County, Maricopa, 30% of the farms have women as principal operators.

  • 50% of Apache County farms have Women as Principal Operators (2,806).
  • 57% of Navajo County farms have Women as Principal Operators (1,791).
  • 50% of Coconino County farms have Women as Principal Operators (1,127)
  • 30% of Maricopa farms have Women as Principal Operators (747)
  • 7% US farms have Women as Principal Operators

 Mohave, Pima and Yavapai counties are further down in the rankings for the number of women operators, but still 30%, 36% and 28% of all farms in those counties, respectively, have Women as Principal Operators.

Besides the diversity of principal operators, a diversity of the type of agriculture is also evident.

  • 34% of the farms with Women as principal operators are goat or sheep farms.
  • 28% of the farms with Women as principal operators are aquaculture or other types of animal farms (horses, alpacas, llamas, deer, elk rabbits, etc).
  • 17% of the farms with Women as principal operators are beef cattle type farms (not a feedlot or dairy).

 While this breakout of numbers don’t distinguish which farms are coming from tribal lands, it’s easy to see what one might call the “Native American” effect. In some tribes, the matriarchal culture clearly identifies women as primary owners of a self-sustaining or subsistence farm and this would be heavily weighted in the counties where tribal lands exist, as certain counties in Arizona represent broad tracts of tribal lands.

Our Arizona Farm Bureau Agriculture Profiles

So, in the meantime, we have some specific farms we’ve profiled where women own, are partnered and run the farm. The list follows.

  1. The Jean and Ferrell Anderson Family (Equine)
  2. Predmore Family (Wine grapes)
  3. Crystal Killian (Sheep Shearer)
  4. Jana Anderson (Various crops)
  5. Christine Roth (Equine)
  6. Statler Family (summer vegetables & floral farming)
  7. Wendy Cavalliere (cattle)
  8. Terisha Driggs (Cattle and crops)
  9. Marguerite Tan (Agribusiness)
  10. Gasho Family (ranching)
  11. Creech Family (direct-to-market farming, retail farmer)
  12. Mortimer Family (direct-to-market farm, cattle, plant nursery)

One of the most fascinating stories about her farming efforts as a principal owner of her own urban farm is Jana Anderson. Janna Anderson’s full story can be found in the 2014 November/December issue of Arizona Agriculture in the article titled, “A Conversation with a Beginner Farmer: Janna Anderson.” She is listed in the group above, number 4.

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