Demographics of Farm Operators/Producers: Gender
Massachusetts Agricultural Census 2017
The number of female principal farm operators/producers has increased during the past decade (Figure 6.1). Female principal farm operators increased between 2002 and 2007 by 921 and between 2007 and 2012 by 281. Women represented 21.5 percent of the Massachusetts principal farm operators in 2002. By 2012, that proportion rose to 32.3 percent. The total number of principal farm operators has increased over time, from 6,075 in 2002 to 7,755 in 2012. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of male farm operators also rose. However, the more recent increase in farms has seen only an increase in female farm operators as the number of male farm operators declined from 5,465 in 2007 to 5,248 in 2012. Massachusetts looks quite different from the U.S. where only 13.7 percent of the principal farm operators are women.
In 2017, the census began to report up to four primary producers, with one designated as the "primary" producer. The 2017 numbers show a decrease in the number of male producers and a slight increase in the number of female producers from 2012, but it is not possible to disentangle to what degree this represents a significant shift in gender, or simlpy reflects the change in methodology. Future censuses will provide insights to help clarify these data.