Women farmers are finally getting counted. And it’s about time.

Pink boots. Huge tractors. 36% of the farmers in the US, but with only 10% of the government funding.

Farming has a bias problem.

A recent article from Huff Post opened my eyes and got me thinking about farms, farm workers, and farm equipment. And with the 2020 census around the corner, these ruminations are timely and relevant.

Because even 2010 US census questions were biased to focus only on the primary farmer in the household — allowing only one person to be listed as a primary operator — without acknowledging that farm responsibilities could be split amidst partners.

It also limited the questions to the physical farm labor, rather than asking questions about who is responsible for the finances and operations of the farm — in which women have historically been heavily involved.

The misunderstanding of the makeup of farm operations has impacted government funding as well. The majority of funds Market Facilitation Program — colloquially referred to as trade aid — went to white male farmers — many of them the wealthiest farmers in the country.

As my ancestors in South Texas would say, “it just ain’t right.”

Women have struggled with self-identifying as farmers. They think of themselves as farm helpers for instance, as many of them juggle other paid jobs along with their farming responsibilities. Many of them raise food to feed their families and to sell at local farmers markets.

But all of them are using farming to monetizing what they cultivate to bring more income to their families. And they’re using farm equipment to do it.

Basically, there are a couple of issues with the approach of companies building products for, and marketing to, farmers today:

  • A lack of qualitative research — including contextual inquiry — that can inform more accurate persona development.
  • Product design that lacks the inclusivity that can better serve their audience.
  • A complete miss on a competitive advantage that can drive more revenue for companies in the farming space.

Imagine if an equipment manufacturer designed for all, creating a more customizable tractor size that was a better fit — and which offered safer operations — for more sizes of people.

Imagine boots in women’s sizes tailored for the different characteristics of women’s feet, with the durability and features that are normally only found in men’s work boots.

Imagine advertisements that represented a broader definition of “farmer” — tailoring imagery to include the 56% of farms that report they have at least one female decision-maker.

What a competitive advantage that would be.

Founder of zeet insights, an Austin-based market & design research firm; design thinker, diversity advocate, tech geek, proud mom.

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