The role of women in production agriculture in a nine-county area of west Texas

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2001-05

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A national survey of farm women conducted in 1979 by Rachel Rosenfield found that the farmer's wife is considered by many an 'invisible farmer.' Twenty-one years later this would still seem to be an appropriate description for today's farm woman. This dissertation is the first study of women involved in production agriculture in a nine-county area of West Texas. The number of women reported as being involved in farming and ranching enterprises seems to be a deceptive figure. In November 1995, for the area of Crosby. Floyd, Garza, Hale, Hockley, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, and Terry counties, the number of individuals considered to be actually 'farming' was 7,843 but only 825 of them were listed as female by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The main questions posed are: do the FSA figures truly reflect that there are 7,000 single males farming in the study area? Really, are most married but their spouses simply are not counted nor considered as partners in the agricultural venture? What role, if any, do the women play? What are their experiences? The first phase of the research identified and located the farm women in the target area. Through a literature search review a questionnaire was developed to identify the farm woman's role and level of involvement in VI production agriculture. The questionnaire was distributed to 5,067 farm women with 643 (12. 7%) returned as the primary source for research. A second survey was conducted with women enrolled in Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Spring semester, 1997, to establish the reasons why young women selected agriculture as a major and what the future offers. Of 250 surveys distributed 45 (18%) were returned. The third phase of the study involved in-depth interviews with forty farm women involved in the management of a farm/ranch and identified in the first survey. These interviews documented each farmwoman's level of involvement, knowledge of production agriculture and current farm programs, and sought their opinions about their future. The results indicate that the farmwomen in the nine-county study area of West Texas are still invisible, often not counted, and not treated as legal equals, although the tide is beginning to change.

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