They're not all farm wives anymore. Women are driving combines, ordering feed and seed and owning and managing farms and ranches. Linda Bannwarth, of rural Mitchell, has seen the evolving role of women in agriculture.
"I just think there's more respect for women now. I have nieces who have ag degrees," Bannwarth said.
"The glass ceiling for women is getting broken," she said. "Women can do as much as men now. Today's woman is more knowledgeable, more confident."
Bannwarth, 63, said she is an "ag partner" with her husband Chuck Bannwarth. She said she can run the combine, operate a tractor or do whatever needs to be done
"Agriculture has really changed. There is so much technology," she said. "You have to do so much figuring for ag today."
From feed to planting, studying and planning is as important as anything a farmer does now, Bannwarth said.
She and her husband have taken marketing and agronomy classes together.
"Two heads are better than one," she said. "That doesn't mean we always agree."
The oldest of eight kids, Bannwarth has spent almost all her life on farms.
"I was a farmer's daughter and I married a farmer," she said. "I was probably only off a farm for four years, five years."
Bannwarth also worked off the farm for 40 years. She has also joined a group that advocates on behalf of women in agriculture.
The South Dakota Farm Bureau's Women's Leadership Team (WLT) promotes and assists the South Dakota Farm Bureau by involving women and helping them develop leadership skills. Bannwarth is the District 2 representative.
Increasingly, women involved in agriculture own and operate farms and ranches. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2007 Census of Agriculture, 14 percent of the nation's 2.2 million farms were owned by women.
However, South Dakota was at the bottom of list for farms and ranches owned by women.
The percentage of women principal operators is highest in the West and in New England. The states with the highest percentage of women principal operators are Arizona (38.5 percent), New Hampshire (29.7 percent), Massachusetts (28.9 percent), Maine (25.1 percent) and Alaska (24.5 percent).
The states with the lowest percentages of women principal operators are in the Midwest. Women make up less than 10 percent of all farm operators in four Midwestern states: South Dakota (7.7 percent), Nebraska (8.4 percent), Minnesota (9.1 percent) and Iowa (9.1 percent).
While the change is not as noticeable in the Midwest, according to the report, women are increasingly playing a larger role.
The census report counted 3.3 million farms in the nation in 2007, and 30.2 percent, or more than 1 million, were primarily owned by women.
The number of female operators jumped 19 percent from 2002 to 2007, far outpacing the 7 percent growth in the number of total farmers.
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