Journal of the NACAA
Volume 11, Issue 2 - December, 2018
Southern Women in Agriculture: Women Teaching Women Hands-on, Practical Farming Practices.
- Knight, C., Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension, Bulloch County
Ray, L., Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension, Morgan County
Sapp, P., Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension, Jefferson County
Butcher, S., Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension, Coweta County
Hammond, K., Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension, Dade County
Cheely, T., Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension, Warren County
Tucker, J., Extension Animal Scientist, University of Georgia Extension
Stewart, R.L., Jr., Extension Animal Science Specialist, University Of Georgia
Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) is a female-led hands-on program developed to improve the skills and confidence of women working in the farming industry. One-day workshops included stations on fencing, tractors, farm implements, trucks and trailers, cattle handling, and animal health. Additionally, the team collaborated with four other land-grant universities and were awarded a Southern Risk Management Education grant to provide a two-day, more intensive program. Assessments revealed that comfort levels in all areas increased. The one-day SWAG workshops have reached 121 women from 52 counties in 4 states. Results of a six-month follow-up indicated that a majority of participants have utilized the knowledge gained and have increased their involvement on the farm.
Animal agriculture, specifically cattle production, is a male-dominated industry. According to the 2012 Census for Agriculture (USDA; 2014), 70% of those that identified as farmers or ranchers were male. However, women’s role in agriculture is becoming more prevalent and recognized. Campaigns such as the Female Farmer Project, the Women’s Work Documentary (Prater; 2018), FarmHer (Eveleth; 2013), and the Pink Tractor (Arterburn; 2018) are all striving to recognize and encourage more female involvement in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture accounts $536 million worth of economic impact in Georgia to women farmers. Of the 17,779 women that identified as farming operators in Georgia in the U.S. Census for Agriculture, 53% were the spouse of the principle operator. Only 36% of those women identified as the principle farming operator (USDA; 2014). It is not from lack of skill that women are not more prevalent in the industry, but perhaps lack of confidence. According to Sachs (1996), women do the majority of work in agriculture at the global level; elder men, for the most part, still own the land, control women's labor, and make agricultural decisions in patriarchal social systems. Societies continue to legitimize the subordination of women through romanticized narratives that misinterpret rural women's lives. Increasing the confidence of women in agricultural settings by encouraging them to experience basic agricultural techniques/skills in a stress-free, all female environment, will result in their increased involvement in agriculture. Catering to women’s unique learning styles will enhance their experience (Belenky et al., 1986). Additionally, women tend to learn more effectively with hands-on activities (Wehrwein et al., 2007). Previous survey data indicate that women in agriculture prefer workshops and hands-on trainings, as well as events specifically designed for women (Barbercheck et al., 2009). These women, like all farmers, need technical advice to help their farming operations be successful. Therefore, the Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) workshop was developed to provide women involved in or interested in cattle production a comfortable learning environment to gain hands-on experience and network with other women involved in the livestock industry. These workshops can directly impact its participants but may have tremendous indirect benefits to the family farm, community and the livestock industry as they serve as role models for other women actively engaged in livestock production.
Methods and Materials
Workshops were designed to give women interested or involved in the ag industry an opportunity to gain hands-on experience. Four one-day workshops have been held, one each in Athens (2015), Calhoun (2016), Tifton (2017), and Newnan (2018), GA. A flyer was designed and used to advertise the program. The workshops were advertised through local county extension offices, a full-page ad in the Georgia Cattleman Magazine, ads in the Georgia Market Bulletin, and the Georgia Farm Bureau Newsletter. Additionally, the program was also advertised through social media and online through Facebook posts and on the UGA Extension Calendar. A $30 registration fee was charged to cover the cost of lunch, educational materials for the stations, and travel for the instructors.
The one-day workshops were designed to be rotated around the state, holding one per year, to reach as many participants as possible with a limited class size. Participation in the workshop was limited in order to maintain small group size and to encourage participants to actively engage and gain hands-on experience. Six female Agriculture and Natural Resources Agents with UGA Extension each organized and taught a station of the workshop. The workshop was divided into 6 topics/stations, one per agent instructor, and the participants were divided into groups of 5-7. Participants rotated to the six stations (Figure 1), described below.
- Fencing – fencing materials, brace posts, electric and permanent fencing
- Tractors – pre-operation inspection, driving and maintenance
- Sprayer calibration – pesticide safety, application guidelines and calibration techniques
- Trucks and trailers – hooking to and pulling gooseneck and bumper-pull trailers
- Cattle handling – low stress handling
- Animal health – Beef Quality Assurance principles, proper injection technique
Figure 1. Women participating in the six stations of the Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) one-day workshop. Truck and Trailers (A); Animal Health and Beef Quality Assurance (B); Cattle Handling (C); Fencing (D); Sprayer Calibration (E); and Tractors (F).
Additionally, the Georgia SWAG team collaborated with four other land-grant universities (North Carolina State University, Clemson University, Auburn University, and Mississippi State University) and was awarded a grant from the Southern Risk Management Education Center to conduct five (one in each state) two-day workshops. This two day more intensive training, Southeast Women’s Cattle Handling Workshop, was held in Athens. Designed very similarly to the one-day programs, it included sessions on working cattle chute side, low-stress handling, calving and dystocia, media training, fencing, trucks and trailers, and tractors and equipment. Participants in this program received their Beef Quality Assurance Certification as well as membership to the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association.
Participants were given a Likert-type pre- and post- assessment to evaluate the knowledge and confidence gained in each of the session activities based on a 1 to 5 scale. A score of 1 was very comfortable and a score of 5 was very uncomfortable. Additionally, for the Southeast Women’s Cattle Handling Workshop, pre- and post-tests were administered based on educational elements from each of the workshop sessions.
A 6-month follow-up evaluation was administered for the two completed programs to assess the lasting impact of the program. Participants were asked to report if they have: applied the techniques learned, increased the hours contributed to their farming operation, reduced the need for hired labor, and feel like the efficiency of their operation has improved.
The one-day SWAG workshops have reached 121 women from 52 counties in 4 states. These women represented various age groups (Figure 2). Thirty-six percent (36%) of the participants identified as 50 years old or older. Fourteen percent (14%) were between the ages of 36 and 49. Twenty percent (20%) were between the ages of 25 and 35. Sixteen percent (16%) were under the age of 25. They also represented varying levels of agricultural experience (Figure 3). Fifty-two percent (52%) said they were involved in livestock production in some way. Thirty-one percent (31%) identified as having little experience and seventeen percent (17%) had no to minimal background in agriculture. Cattle experience ranged from none to running a 500 head cow/calf operation.
Figure 2. Age range of woman participating in the Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) one-day workshop (n = 105).
Figure 3. Agricultural experience of woman participating in the Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) one-day workshop (n = 105).
Based on the evaluation (n = 105):
- Comfort levels increased by at least 1 score in every station (Likert-type pre/post evaluation; Figure 4).
- Notable increases of 2 scores were seen in the tractors and cattle handling categories.
- 100% of respondents expressed interest in future women’s trainings.
- Evaluation comments included. “Thank you, I’m so pleased to meet and learn from you and get to know other women in agriculture,” and “Great program, having lady instructors was very relaxing.”
Figure 4. Improvement in comfort level of women participating in the Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) one-day workshop. 1 = very comfortable; 5 = very uncomfortable (n = 105).
Results of a six-month follow-up evaluation (n= 20) with participants indicated:
- 95% of respondents reported that they have utilized techniques/skills learned at the training on their operation.
- 100% reported having shared knowledge gained at the workshop with either a family member, friend or clientele.
- 72% replied that the training had resulted in their increased involvement in their personal/family agricultural operation thereby reducing the need for hired labor.
- 95% of participants have applied the techniques/skills learned in the training in some aspect of their life (Figure 5).
- As a result, respondents’ operations had saved an estimated total of $810-950 per week due to their increased labor contributions.
Figure 5. The application of techniques/skills received during the Southern Women in Agriculture (SWAG) one-day workshop to different facets of life based on the six-month follow-up assessment (n = 20)
The two-day Southeast Women’s Cattle Handling Workshop had 20 participants in Athens. These participants represented 5,898 acres and 1,385 head of cattle. As a result of the workshop:
- All 20 participants are now Beef Quality Assurance Certified and members of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association.
- A few participants have chartered a brand-new chapter of the Georgia Cattlewomen’s Association in their area.
- Average scores increased by 28% between the pre and post-test based on educational elements from each of the workshop sessions.
- Confidence levels increased by over 1 point in all areas (Likert-type pre/post evaluation).
- 100% of participants replied that the training met their expectations and that they would recommend it to others.
- Evaluation comments included: “Having all women instructors was wonderful! No intimidation or humiliation factors!”
Results of this program have been presented statewide and nationally through poster, abstract and oral presentations. SWAG team members have been invited to speak about programming efforts in other states including the South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo: Women in Ag Track.
The women who participated in the SWAG workshops gained valuable hands-on experience. They felt at ease learning and asking questions in an all-female environment. Aside from the overly positive evaluations received, the participants genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves and the instructors did as well. The comradery and almost instant bond formed between each of the groups of participants is not something often seen in a traditional one-day extension program. Because of this, the instructors formed a SWAG Alumni Facebook Group for the participants to continue to share, network and learn about other educational opportunities.
The future plans for this program are to evaluate the need for continuing the one-day basic workshop around the state or transitioning into offering more advanced training opportunities, similar to the two-day workshop.
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