Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Peggy Petrzelka


Peggy Petrzelka


Douglas Jackson-Smith


Layne Coppock


Jennifer Givens


Christy Glass


Despite women’s involvement in agriculture, their contributions have been overlooked in society. Women make up at least a third of those involved in agriculture as farmers, landowners, and in agricultural faculty positions. These numbers do not appear to be decreasing. Although there are several agricultural roles, this study focuses primarily on those women who own agricultural land, but do not farm the land themselves. Rather, these women rent it out to a farmer who operates the land for them (women nonoperating landowners or WNOLs, in short). Previous research suggests these women may be facing considerable barriers as an agricultural landowner and several gaps exist in research.

This dissertation contributes to this body of research through a series of three studies. I first begin by conducting an analysis of 361 photos posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website and social media to determine how they are representing women in agriculture. In terms of the numbers of women portrayed, who is the focus of the photograph, and if women are portrayed in an agricultural role, the findings reveal that women are severely underrepresented in comparison to males. The second study compiles a series of interviews with WNOLs to understand power dynamics in terms of decision-making between the woman landowner and her farm operator, or renter (as they are referred to in this study). The findings reveal three groups of women: those who are begrudgingly yielding their power to their renter; those who share power mutually; and those who refuse to yield power. Each of these groups of women reveal the many experiences facing WNOLs today. In the third study, interviews are conducted with WNOLs and agricultural agency women staff, both of whom have been involved in participating in a unique outreach method. This method helps provide women opportunities to increase their human, social, and cultural capital through engagement with one another and learning about various agricultural practices. Both groups of women are asked about the barriers they perceive WNOLs to be facing, along with what aspects of the outreach they feel are most beneficial in addressing these barriers. Results from this study suggest that women face considerable barriers to ownership, both from feeling they lack knowledge and with issues in their renter relationship. However, the outreach methods prove to be a powerful tool that help these women connect with one another and increase their knowledge about agricultural practices. Overall, these three studies help to advance the research on women in agriculture.



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