Women are increasingly changing the face of agriculture — not just in Tennessee, but across the nation.
From 2012 to 2017, the United States Census of Agriculture reported a 1.7% decline in male farmers and a 27% increase of female farmers nationwide. Women are becoming more involved in all aspects of agribusiness and are developing innovative strategies to grow their enterprise and the communities around them.
Tennessee business owner Rebecca Paschal of Cellar 53 Winery in Smith County transitioned from a commercial grape grower to a winemaker to expand her grape business.
“After several years of growing grapes, we found that there isn’t a secondary market for fruit,” she said. “To continue farming, we got creative and decided to start the winery.”
Some women in agriculture have changed the conventional way of farming by focusing on not one, but multiple avenues of the industry. April Patterson of Acres of Grace Farms LLC in Clay County, 2019 Tennessee Young Farmer of the Year, found that diversity has been the key to their success.
“We row crop, raise Akaushi beef cattle, grow fresh garden vegetables and fruits, and provide educational events for the community through agritourism,” she said. “We do all of this to make up for the volatile market and to take the best care of the land, resources and people around us.”
Patterson and her husband also manage a sawmill, a lumberyard, a log home business and mulch production. Because this diversified approach has been so successful, their business has helped their community by providing funding for the local young farmers and ranchers organization.
Though some women select the agriculture industry, it was destiny for others.
“I didn’t choose this industry — it chose me,” Amy Tavalin of Tavalin Tails in Williamson County said. "I am passionate about finding ways for farmers to increase their revenue through education, networking with others, and gaining knowledge to make their business sustainable and profitable.”
This attitude has been successful for her farming operation, and also for outside ventures, including serving as director of the Franklin Farmers Market and the Pick TN Conference.
Across the state, both female and male farm business owners have found tremendous success in utilizing the resources available to them from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
“With the popularity of farm to table, we have many customers who search the Pick Tennessee Products (PTP) website to find our winery, host events and choose gifts for family members,” Paschal said. “The PTP brand gives our products the seal of Tennessee authenticity.”
The highly recognizable PTP brand has provided women and businesses with valuable resources across the state.
“As a meat producer, the opportunity to participate in the ‘Fill your Grill’ campaign was invaluable as it introduced new customers to our business,” Tavalin said.
To support Tennessee women in agriculture, visit www.PickTNProducts.orgor use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a farmer. Follow “PickTNProducts” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about seasonal recipes, products and activities.