Gender Differences in Farmer Perspectives on Viability and Impacts of Regulation

Women farmers reported significantly less confidence in their ability to make a living farming than their male counterparts

By Melissa Pasanen & Beth Holtzman

Meredith Niles, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Meredith Niles, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

A recent UVM study on the impacts of regulation and agricultural policy on farmers revealed that farmers find regulations increasingly complex, costly and challenging to navigate, according to the study’s author, Dr. Meredith Niles, assistant professor in UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Nevertheless, more than 80 percent of respondents still said they would be farming in the near future,” Niles says.

However, the study found that women farmers had much less confidence in their ability to make a living than their male counterparts, Niles says, despite the fact that that men and women had no statistically significant differences in whether they identified as full-time farmers or not (men 69% fulltime, women 67% fulltime). Across the US, farms with a woman principal operator tend be smaller — in both acres and gross sales — than those operated by men. Continue reading

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Farm Succession Planning – Never to Early or Too Late

VT farmers face succession planning challenges head-on with help from local groups.

In Vermont, senior farmers age 65 or older operate 28% of the state’s farms. Of these 2,076 senior farmers, just 9% of them have someone under age 45 managing the farm with them. The 363,600 acres and $1.2 billion in land and agricultural infrastructure they own will transfer ownership in the next 10+ years in one way or another.

Transferring The Farm Workshops help VT farmers understand the options, resources and steps to transferring a farm business or farmland will be held February 12th from 9:00am to 3:30pm at UVM Extension classroom in Berlin VT (snow date of February 15th). Topics include why succession planning is important, retirement and estate planning, addressing tax issues in a transfer, legal entities and tool you can use to transfer farm assets, and determining your goals for retirement, business transitions, and your land. Local groups and experts will offer assistance to VT’s senior farmers.

“It’s never too early – or too late – to plan for your future and the future of your farm,” says Mike Ghia, Vermont Field Agent for Land For Good. “At no point is a farm’s future more at risk than during this transition,” says Ghia of farmers without proper succession or transfer planning assistance. Land For Good (LFG) is a non-profit organization that helps farmers navigate the complex challenges of land access, tenure and transfer. They also work with farmers who do not have an identified successor to whom to pass on the farm.

The workshop fee is $10 per farmer and includes lunch. For more information or to register, call Land For Good at 603-357-1600 or at

The workshop is sponsored by Land For Goodin partnership with Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Dinse Law, Intervale Center, UVM Extension, and Yankee Farm Creditand is funded in part by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

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Growing a Business while Growing Up

Originally published in UVM New Farmer Blog

With her prize-winning registered Border Leicester sheep flock, Lydia Smith is a beginning farmer to watch. Lydia’s business, Echo Ridge Flock, sells breeding stock, feeder lambs, raw fleeces, wool blankets, pelts and meat, and provides shearing services for other small farms. Lydia started her business six years ago at age 14.

Lydia’s farm business was a natural off-shoot to her family’s farm, Vinegar Ridge Farm, in Charlotte, Vermont.  Lydia was two-years old in 2000 when her parents purchased two Romney ewe lambs, soon followed by some Border Leicesters and the flock grew exponentially.

“At first, it was a fun little hobby that I didn’t take too seriously.  When my older sister went to college and found herself too busy for sheep, another sister and I took over the management of the flock.  Then, something clicked,” she says.” Continue reading

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