women & farming
Women and farming: A nurturing nature
By Dan Pilar for the Des Moines Register, May 7 2011
Here's a Mother's Day question for Mom: Is there a maternal instinct that makes women, long the caregivers in most cultures, better suited than men to care for Iowa's 24 million acres of rich farmland?
The question and possible answers are gender-issue tripwires. But the fact that about half of Iowa's farmland now is owned by women makes the query far from idle.
"Women who own land see things different," said Betty Roudybush, who owns 400 acres of farmland in Louisa County that she rents. "We have the maternal instinct, and that means we will tend more to emphasize conservation."
Roudybush, who also is a real-estate agent, learned the hard way that a conservation-minded woman landowner had better watch the land closely.
"For the first few years after I inherited my land, I didn't notice that my tenant had done away with the waterways," the grass strips in the fields that absorb water runoff, Roudybush said.
"I had to get a new tenant."
Chris Henning, who moved from a career in Des Moines at Meredith Corp. to a 300-acre farm near Cooper in Greene County, said that when she cash-rented her land "it was like I couldn't go onto my own land."
Henning changed operators, and shifted to crop-sharing, in which the owner and operator share in the management, and profits, of the farm. She now puts one-third of her acres into prairie grasses.
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