In 2012, 30 percent of farmers in the United States were women, according to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, meaning that the majority of farmers were men. While the number of women who identify as the principle operator on their farm is increasing, some women still face challenges as they take on more responsibilities that were historically assigned to farm men.
Karyn Williams is one of those women farmers. She started farming when she was 19 years old and opened Red Dog Farm, her own operation, when she was 27. “Starting out as a woman farmer, there’s been some challenges, but there’s also been a lot of benefits,” she said.
Despite what society might say about gender roles in agriculture, Karyn’s customers are excited to support a woman farmer. She said, “I have a number of customers who love that I am a woman farmer and tell me on a regular basis that they are behind me, that they support me and that they really want to see me be successful.”
As an individual, Karyn also sees strengths in her interpersonal skills, assets that contribute to her ability to operate a successful business. “I think that I have a diverse skillset. I bring a little bit more intuition, social awareness and an ability to connect with and care about people,” she said.
And community is an integral part of Red Dog Farm. From the sense of connection felt with customers and through markets, to the relationships that are built between coworkers on the farm itself, Karyn is intentional about cultivating an environment in which people feel a sense of belonging. When it comes to employees, she has built a strong team and strives to serve as a role model for aspiring female farmers.
“A lot of my staff are seeking out a woman to work for and for a lot of the women on my staff, [becoming a farmer] is an aspiration. I serve as a role model that this is something that a woman can do, to start from scratch and build a farm.”
Karyn is changing the face of American agriculture through her everyday work as a farmer demonstrating, through her own actions, a future for girls and women that may not have been previously thought possible.