Women are increasingly taking the reins in Canada's agriculture industry, even though it can mean long hours and grueling work. While women have always been involved in farming and agriculture, their role is changing with the times - and the value of their work is just beginning to be recognized.

Just who are the women running Canada's farms?

  • Average age of 54.5
  • Median age of 55.0
  • 10.3 per cent were immigrants
  • Average total income of $43,216
  • Median total income of $32,363
  • Top three mother tongue (excluding English and French) are German, Dutch and Punjabi
  • Top three place of birth (excluding Canada) are Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States

Source: 2016 Census of Agriculture

More fast facts:

  • In 2016, women ran just 28.7 per cent of canadian farms, up one percent from the previous measure in 2011. That's nearly 78,000 of about 272,000 total farmers. In comparison, in 1996 women accounted for just 25.3 per cent of farm operators. (2016 Census of Agriculture)
  • A labour shortage at the end of the First World War led to government and private sector support for women to work in agriculture. The Farm Service Corps or 'farmerettes' did everything men once did on Ontario farms.
  • What do you call a female farmer? FarmHER!
  • Just how many roles can women in agriculture take on? Read about how four women have made their own way in agriculture.

Meet Kathy Breen!

Kathy Breen

Kathy Breen is a regional dairy educator for Elgin and London-Middlesex. At the age of 20 this self-described "city girl" married a dairy farmer and completely immersed herself in the business of owning and running a dairy farm.

Having been teaching Sunday school since the age of 12, she naturally gravitated to education and children, and says with her new-found love for agriculture and homeschooling two daughters, sheI joined the Agriculture Society in the early 2000s and took over the responsibility of agriculture awareness.

But she says, "This was not enough for my passion of educating the public about farming, so I became a dairy educator for the [Dairy Farmers of Ontario] in 2010 to present."

Excepting during this COVID-19 break for schools, Breen speaks to thousands of students in classrooms and thousands of adults at fairs - even appearing as a guest on Top Chef Canada in 2018.

She worked for two years in sales for a robotics company, but realized that her generational dairy farm was expanding with her daughter, her husband, and three grandchildren and that she needed/wanted to support their success.

In all she says, "I live, breathe and sleep farming, but I have many other passions, from baking to sewing and - newly renewed - fishing and camping."

Women in Agriculture Focus Group

Carolynne Griffith, Past Chair Egg Farmers of Ontario and Secretary & Partner, Art Griffith Farms Inc.
Tonya Haverkamp, Egg Farmer Listowel Ontario
Dianne McComb, Egg Farmer
Kristen Thompson-Dow, Beef farmer and Pullet Business Manager with New Life Mills.
Sally Van Straaten, Egg and Grain Producer