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Opening the Farm Gate to Women? Sustainable Agriculture in the United States

This paper analyzes the relationship between the growth in the number of women farmers and the rise in sustainable agriculture using the US Census of Agriculture. Assessing full time farmers, we show that farms operated by women earn much lower farm incomes than farms operated by men, such that the gender gap in agriculture is amongst the largest in any occupation. While this inequity can be partly explained by the patrilineal inheritance of land and capital, farms headed by women generate nearly 40 percent less income after controlling for farm assets, work time, age, experience, farm type, and location. We investigate whether three different forms of sustainable agriculture improved incomes for women farmers during 2012. We find that only farms engaging in Community Supported Agriculture experience a marked decline in the gender gap. We argue that the diverse set of principles associated with Community Supported Agriculture results in women selecting into that form of farming, and that the men involved in it may be more supportive of women farmers.

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