Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: Race, Hispanic Origin, and Gender

Most farm operators are men. Although only about 12 percent of principal farm operators are women (see the table "Characteristics of principal farm operator households, by gender, 2012," in the Farm Household Income and Characteristics data product), that number represents a significant increase from as recently as 25 years ago, when less than 5 percent of principal farm operators were women. Women principal operators are older on average than their male counterparts (59.7 years versus 58 years), and nearly 36 percent of women principal operators are age 65 or older; therefore, it is not surprising that 28.8 percent report being retired. 

Women generally operate farms that are smaller than average. Once primarily focused on beef cattle production, female principal operators have diversified their farm operations over the past two decades to include horses, aquaculture, and fur-bearing animals. Women principal operators are more likely than the average farmer to produce high-value crops, such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables. About 36 percent of U.S. farms report more than one operator and, in most of these cases, the additional operators are women and spouses of principal operators (see the table "Characteristics of principal farm operator households, by type of management team, 2012," in the Farm Household Income and Characteristics data product). When all operators are considered—not just the single principal operator of a farm—27 percent of U.S. farm operators are women.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, about three-quarters of the general U.S. population is classified as being solely White (i.e., White alone and of all ethnic origins). Farm operators are much more likely than the general population to report being White. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 95.4 percent of principal operators reported being White. Other principal operators were Black or African American (1.6 percent), American Indians or Alaska natives (1.8 percent), Asians (0.6 percent), native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders (0.1 percent), and those reporting more than one race (0.5 percent). Hispanic origin was reported by 3.2 percent of the principal farm operators in 2012, up from 2.5 percent in 2007. Most Hispanic operators (94 percent) reported their race as White.