Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 List of Figures
 Who does what within the famil...
 Goals motivating farm women
 Can family farmers make a living...

Group Title: Florida farm wives : they help the family farm survive
Title: Florida farm wives
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00056204/00001
 Material Information
Title: Florida farm wives they help the family farm survive
Physical Description: iv, 102 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Downie, Masuma, 1942-
Gladwin, Christina H
Publisher: Food and Resources Economics Dept., Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1981
Subject: Farmers' spouses -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Women in agriculture -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Family farms -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 102)
Statement of Responsibility: by Masuma Downie and Christina H. Gladwin.
General Note: "October, 1981."
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00056204
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001039918
oclc - 24875226
notis - AFC2489

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
        Page i
    Table of Contents
        Page ii
    List of Tables
        Page iii
    List of Figures
        Page iv
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Survival of the family farm: A national concern
            Page 5
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
        Sample selection
            Page 9
            Page 10
            Page 11
        Introduction to the family and the farm
            Page 12
            Page 13
            Page 14
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
            Page 19
            Page 20
            Page 21
            Page 22
            Page 23
            Page 24
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
        Work decisions of farm wives
            Page 60
            Page 60a
            Page 61
            Page 62
            Page 63
            Page 64
            Page 65
            Page 66
    Who does what within the family?
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Farm work
            Page 31
            Page 32
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
            Page 36
            Page 37
            Page 38
            Page 39
            Page 40
            Page 41
            Page 42
        Off-farm work
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
            Page 49
            Page 50
        Combinations of farm and off-farm work
            Page 51
            Page 52
            Page 53
            Page 54
            Page 55
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
        Total hours of work including housework and garden work
            Page 67
            Page 68
        Children's work
            Page 69
            Page 70
            Page 71
            Page 72
        Who makes the decisions in the farm family?
            Page 73
            Page 74
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
    Goals motivating farm women
        Page 78
        Farm goals
            Page 79
            Page 80
            Page 81
            Page 82
            Page 83
            Page 84
        Off-farm goals
            Page 85
            Page 86
            Page 87
            Page 88
    Can family farmers make a living farming?
        Page 89
        Why farmers can't making a living: their problems, needs, and concerns
            Page 89
            Page 90
            Page 91
            Page 92
            Page 93
            Page 94
            Page 95
        Advice to young farmers on how to make a living on the farm
            Page 96
            Page 97
            Page 98
            Page 99
            Page 100
            Page 101
        Page 102
Full Text


The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

? 130


They Help the Family
Farm Survive




Masuma Downie and Christina H. Gladwin

October, 1981

This paper is circulated without formal review by the Food and Resource
Economics Department. The content of this paper is the sole responsibility
of the authors.

Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611


The authors wish to thank the farm women of Baker and Gilchrist counties

who so generously gave their time to answering our questions and also showing

us around their farms. Without their cooperation this study would not have

been possible. Other individuals who also assisted us in getting the study

underway and provided us with support are the extension agents and staff in

the two counties. In Baker county, Ms. Pat Smith and Mr. Michael Sweat, and

in Gilchrist county, Mr. Marvin Weaver, Mrs. Elaine Faison and Mrs. Betty

May were most helpful. Pat Smith even gave us a place to stay, for which we

are most grateful.

Janet Weston also deserves our thanks, for her invaluable assistance

in Gilchrist County. Jan did all the interviewing and coding, and some of

the tabulating, of data from Gilchrist County. She also took all the photographs

on the cover and prepared a set of slides of Florida farm wives. Rekha Mehra

also provided untold help during the course of the study in interviewing and

transcribing the taped interviews.

We also greatly appreciate the help of Jeannette Abbe, Debby Collins,

and Bobbie Stewart, who supported the project by graciously typing this report.

Thanks also to Janice Steadman who worked long and hard to reproduce your copy

of this report. Once again, our thanks to all the people who made this report


This study was made possible by funds provided by the IFAS Center for

Community and Rural Development and the National Science Foundation's grant

#BNS-8112424 awarded to Christina Gladwin. The views expressed within, however,

are solely our views; and we alone are responsible for any errors.

Table of Contents



I. Introduction........................................ ... 1

a. Introduction.............................................
b. Survival of the family farm: a national concern.......... 5
c. Sample selection......................................... 9
d. Introduction to the family and the farm.................. 12

II. Who Does What Within the Family?............................. 29

a. Farm work............................................... 31
b. Off-farm work........................................... 43
c. Combinations of farm and off-farm work................... 51
d. Work decisions of farm wives ............................ 60
e. Total hours of work including housework and garden work.. 67
f. Children's work................................. ...... 69
g. Who makes the decisions in the farm family?.............. 73

III. Goals Motivating Farm Women... ............................... 78

a. Farm goals............................................ 79
b. Off-farm goals......................................... 85

IV. Can Family Farmers Make a Living Farming?........ ....... ... 89

a. Why farmers can't make a living: their problems,
needs, and concerns.............................. *** 89
b. Advice to young farmers on how to make a living on
the farm ............................... ...... ........... 96

References............ ........ ..... ...... ...........


1. Distribution and representativeness of sampled farms by operating size

2. Comparison of some characteristics of farm husbands and wives.

3. Women's stages in the life cycle.

4. Men's stages in the life cycle.

5. Farm family composition.

6. Some characteristics of the farm family.

7. Predominance of crops in Baker and Gilchrist counties: 1980-1981.

8. Predominance of livestock in Baker and Gilchrist counties: 1980-1981.

9. Predominance of crops and livestock raised in combination in Baker and
Gilchrist county farms, 1980-1981.

10. Number of men and women performing certain gardening tasks.

11. Hours of work per garden performed by men, women and children.

12. Number and percent of farm families who have a garden.

13. Number and percent of farm families who provide own meat for family

14. Number of men, women, and children performing certain farm operations.

15. Types of off-farm jobs held by men and women.

16. Relative importance of off-farm and farm incomes, ranked by farm

17. Average hours per week of farm and off-farm work of men and women.

18. Combinations of part-time and full-time farming with part- and full-
time off-farm work for men and women.

19. Number of farm families with different combinations of husbands' and
wives' farm and off-farm work.

20. Average hours/week of farm work, off-farm.work, housework and garden
work of men and women.

21. Average hours per week of farm work, off-farm, work, housework, and
garden work performed by children in both Baker and Gilchrist Counties.

22. Average hours per week of farm work, off-farm work, housework, and
garden work performed by men, women, children in.both Baker and Oil-
christ Counties.

23. Farm family decision making

24. Farm goals.

25. Reasons for gardening.

26. Goals motivating off-farm income.

27. Why farmers can't make a living farming their problems, needs and

28. How farmers can make a living farming.


1. Number and average size of farms in US.

2. A diagram of farming system 2.

3. Income per farm operator family, by farm size, 1978.

4. The decision of a farm wife to farm full- or part-time or work off the

I Introduction

"Both husband and wife must have the same goal, if that
is farming and building a farm. Then everything else is
secondary. For some women, the off-farm job has pulled
them from the farm. It then becomes a half venture, a
his and hers venture .. ."

The contribution farm wives make to the care of their families and

the maintenance of their homes is generally recognized and valued. However,

the role of farm wives in the survival of the family farm has received less

attention. It appears that nobody has thought to talk to Florida farm wives

themselves about their contributions to the farm itself, and their hopes and

concerns for its future. One farm wife frankly stated, "generally people

come to talk to my husband. This is the first time I've been asked about my

views of our farm."

The dominant theme that emerges from this study of farm families is

that small to medium-sized farms in Florida cannot survive without farm wives.

It isn't that the farm wives themselves articulate this view and state that

they are indispensable. In fact, they are modest to the point of being

deprecative concerning their work and role on the farm, until one persists in

asking questions about what they do.

Farm women were asked to describe who does what within the family. They

identified four major task areas: farmwork, gardenwork, housework, and off-

farm work. Within the realm of farm work, there are specific commodities

and tasks which are women's responsibilities and others which are men's work.

Although tradition usually defines men's and women's work roles, preferences

and constraints in the here and now also work to change traditional jobs of

men and women. If they have to, if their work will help the farm and family,

farm women can drive and fix tractors, pen and load cattle, bargain with

poultry company representatives and cattlemen, and plant tobacco seedbeds.

They can, however, make a conscious choice not to be responsible for a

particular commodity or even a task, as one farm wife said: "I never handle

the tractor. I've tried, but to tell you the truth I have plenty to do

without it. Besides, I'm just not that fond of tractors." Another wife

admits that her husband has tried to persuade her "to go into the chicken

business," a woman's commodity. But, as she put it, "the husbands get it all

started and the wives tend to it. My pecan orchard is the kind of farming

I like; it is totally mine."

Constraints, rather than tradition, also play a role in labor allocation

decisions and strategies of farm families. Whether the husband or wife or

both should work off the farm may be determined by their stage in the life

cycle, the economic returns from farming, the presence of young children, and

the health of the spouses. One husband, when asked about his household work,

said: "I try not to do housework; but if she is sick I do the work for both

of us. When she worked at the state hospital, I used to help." She quit to

take care of young children and to help her husband in the chicken houses,

which are now her sole responsibility since her husband is ill. Similarily,

financial constraints may determine who works off the farm. The deciding

factor, as described by one farm wife, may be potential earnings. "One day

my husband said, 'one of us has to quit.' I said, 'you make the most money;

I'll quit.'" And she did.

Farm wives' perception of themselves as farmers was also explored in

the study. Almost half (or 42 percent) of the women thought of themselves

as "real" farmers whereas 36 percent thought of themselves as farmers' wives.

Fourteen percent perceived of themselves as "part-time" farmers, and 8 percent

said they were retired or semi-retired from farming.

Farm wives were also asked to describe their goals for the farm and their

family. Their statements reveal the enormous amount of human energy they

channel into the farm. In the view of one farm wife, "Our goal is to put

what we have worked for back into the farm and home." For Florida farm wives,

keeping the family together and the farm intact are almost identical goals.

They work long hours and do hard work, yet they prefer the personal autonomy

of working for self, setting their own schedule, and being their own boss.

Those who work off the farm do it just to maintain their standard of living,

while they reinvest farm earnings back into the farm and home. The goal of

others is just to retire and devote all their time to farm work. Children

are central to some of the goals women articulate. Women's goals often focus

on "raising children-right" or helping children set up their own farm enterprise.

Women's concerns over the future of the family farm show an awareness

of the precarious financial situation facing the small farm. Over and over

again, women voiced concern over inflation and rising costs of land, inputs,

credit, and taxes. One woman concluded, "Our children won't be able to keep

the farm." In the view of another, "The small farmer is being phased out

because of the cost of land and inheritance taxes."

In spite of these dismal forecasts, however, farm women continue to

give advice to young farmers on how they can make a living farming. They

advise: efficient use of family labor, slow and gradual expansion, frugal

use of credit, choice of an appropriate enterprise mix, good management, and

getting an off-farm job to offset low farm income. They warn of the risks

involved in farming, and recognize the need for government intervention and

support. They also suggest the option of farming with others and the need

to raise one's own food to achieve some self-sufficiency.


Women farmers continue to stress hard work, self-reliance, commitment

and dedication to farming, and sacrifices. In the view of one woman, "young

people are not willing to make sacrifices to make a farm and keep the family


To conclude, although farm wives do not ,think of farming as a profession,

the work they do on the farm testifies to their professionalism. Their

views convey the same message: "We farm because we love it, and we love

to do a good job."

Survival of the Family Farm: A National Concern

"If we don't change our programs, we're going to see small
and medium farmers go out of business. People might say "So
what?" Well, the question should be debated whether 1,000
farmers are enough. Was Jefferson right when he argued for
as wide a distribution of landownership as possible?"
(Ex-Secretary of Agriculture Robert
Bergland, quoted by the Washington
Post, Jan. 14, 1981)

The recent "revolution" in U.S. agriculture, resulting in a decrease

in the number of farms and an increase in the average size of farms at the

national level, is a topic of much concern to the family farm in Florida.

Concentration in farmland acreage at the national level is now so extensive

that only a few of the largest farms (6.6% in 1978) control more than half

(54.1%) of the land in farms. Moreover, concentration in production is such

that farms with less than $40,000 in value of sales represent 78 percent of

all farms but only 18 percent of sales, while farms with sales above $100,000

are 7.1 percent of all farms but have 56 percent of the total sales.5 Further

concentration of land ownership and production, moreover, is not a break from

the past, as seen in figure 1, which shows the total number of farms declining

from 6.5 million in 1935 to 2.7 million in 1978, and the average size of farm

increasing from 140 acres to 400 acres (by the old definition of a farm).

If present trends continue, more concentration of farm wealth and

production coupled with fewer farms can be expected in the year 2000:

a) the total number of farms will decline to 1.8 million.

b) the farms will probably have a bimodal distribution: a

large proportion of small farms, an increasing proportion of large farms, and

a declining number of medium-sized farms managed by full-time farmers.

c) the largest one percent of farms will account for about half

of all farm production.

*Number and Average Size of Farms

Millions Acres
7 700

6 600

5 L500
Number of farms New definition

4^ -. .."^ 400
Old definition

"2_ ......"' New definition 200
--- Average size of farms
1 100

1920 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80
Sources: Average sce of farms 1920-50 from 1964 Census of Agriculture.
All other data from Crop Reportng Board, USDA.

Number and Average Size of Farms in US

Figure 1.

d) capital requirements will accelerate implying that the low

equity, young potential farmers will have even more difficulty getting

started farming. The number of new farmers under 35 years of age will

decrease by 40 percent.

Why concentration?

Given the projected trends toward further concentration, a review of

some of the major factors influencing the trend is in order:

The concentration trend is the result of many complex
forces: a highly competitive agricultural production sector;
economies of size whereby costs of production decline marked-
ly over a range of increased output but then level off and
are fairly constant over a wide range of output; a dynamic
technology generated by both the public and private sectors;
and a strong demand for agricultural products, which provides
both incentives and an internal source of capital for the new
technologies. (Foreign demand in the 1970s and price and in-
come supports in the 1960s were important factors.here). In
addition, a variety of governmental policies and programs with
admirable objectives in their own right have produced unin-
tended side effects on the concentration of agricultural pro-
duction. Social security and unemployment insurance programs,
for example, increase the price of labor; and tax policies,
such as interest deductions, investment tax credits and rapid
depreciation allowances, decrease the price of capital. Finally,
farms have to grow in size if farmers are to reach and maintain
incomes comparable to those of the nonagricultural sector.2

It is clear that some of the factors contributing to the disappearance

of the family farm in the nation as a whole are also contributing to the

problems faced by family farmers in Florida. Dramatically-increasing costs

of land, credit, and production inputs in the last five years, coupled with

volative output prices and three droughts in the same period, have led Dr.

K.R. Tefertiller, Vice President for Agricultural Affairs at the University

of Florida, to dub the last five years as a "period of transition" for Florida

agriculture. While all Florida farms, large and small, are now facing risks

not experienced before, the risk of not surviving "a continuing cost-price

squeeze" is obviously going to be greater for the low-equity, small or

beginning family farm.

What can Florida family farmers do to survive this risky transition

period? Some agricultural experts suggest: ". .a revision of the tax

laws, increased management assistance with regard to technology, changed

commercial practices and financial arrangements, a new and changed policy

with respect to mechanization, various kinds of subsidies to these small- to

moderate-sized farms, and the provisions of a greater number of off-farm

employment opportunities. ." While innovative programs at the state and

national level are certainly needed to help family farms survive, the

authors would also urge that policy planners and farmers themselves take a

long, hard look at the family farm's strengths and resources, and the sur-

vival strategies which farmers themselves have devised and which have allowed

them to survive thus far. What strategies or plans have family farmers

developed, on their own initiative, that enables them to survive in and adapt

to a hostile environment? Can governmental policies encourage these "sur-

vival strategies"?

One very important and very traditional survival strategy of the family

farm is the efficient use of family labor in general, and the use of the

managerial skills and labor of the farm wife in particular. Although farm

wives themselves downplay their role and contribution to the family farm,

their management skills, labor, and devotion to the family and the farm may

pull it through this risky period. This study attempts to document how the

Florida farm wife helps the family farm survive.


Sample selection

This report is based on interviews with farm women in Baker and

Gilchrist Counties, Florida. Initial contact:with farm women was made with

the assistance of the county extension office. In Baker County, the ex-

tension office has two separate mailing lists of farm families who partici-

pate in their programs: one list of those who have interest in various home

extension/economics programs and the other list of those who raise specific

crops/livestock. After an extensive cross-check from both lists, farm women

from farms of different sizes were selected if their names appeared on both

lists. Since home extension participants are not necessarily all farm women,

the cross-check with the list of commodity/livestock producers ensured that

selected women are engaged in agricultural production now. In Gilchrist

County, there is no home economics program or list. Women were therefore

selected from the 4H and ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation

Service) mailing lists, on the basis of the representativeness of their

farm's size in the county.

A letter was sent to the farm women from the extension office briefly

describing the project and requesting their cooperation in the study. Inter-

.views were scheduled soon thereafter by calling them on the phone. Thirty

.women in Baker County and twenty women in Gilchrist County were able to

grant an interview. A prepared questionnaire, using both closed and open-

ended questions, was used; when permitted, the sessions were taped. In most

cases women were interviewed individually. In several cases, either the

spouse or children were present throughout the interview or joined in the

discussion towards the end of the interview. Their comments and interjections

were in the nature of collaborative statements, and did not detract from the


Table 1: Distribution and representativeness of sampled farms by operating

Baker County
Farms by size:

less than 10 acres
10 to 49 acres
50 to 99 acres
100 to 219 acres
220 to 499 acres
500 to 999 acres
1000 acres or more
the farm is sold

All farms*



Sampled farms


Gilchrist County
Farms by size:
less than 10 acres
10 to 40 acres
50 to 99 acres
100 to 219 acres
220 to 499 acres
500 to 999 acres
1000 acres or more

All farms

Sampled farms

1978 Census of Agriculture


farm wives' responses. Only in one case was a male farmer and son interviewed

as his wife worked full time off-farm.

Table 1 shows how representative the sample in each county is, relative

to the distribution of all farms by operating size, which data is available

from the 1978 Census of Agriculture. A comparison of the distribution of

farms in the Baker County sample with the distribution of all farms, as

reported in the census, shows that farms in the less than 10 acre size class,

and the 50 to 99 acre size class are under-represented in the sample, while

farms in the 100 to 219 acre size class are over-represented. In the

Gilchrist County sample, farms in the 50 to 99 acre size class are also under-

represented, while farms in the 500 to 999 acre size are over-represented.

In general, however, the two samples are pretty representative of farms in

the counties: women from small farms as well as large farms were interviewed,

in proportion to their relative numbers in the county.


Introduction to the family and the farm

Before the farm wife's contribution to the farm is spelled out in

detail in Chapter II, a brief summary will be made of the demographic

characteristics of the farmers interviewed, and the predominance of the

crops and livestock combinations that they raise.

An almost universal characteristic of the farm families interviewed is

a rural background which spans several generations. In the Baker and

Gilchrist samples, three generations or more of the farmers reside in the

same county. However, the entry into farming for the farm wives interviewed

was neither guaranteed by virtue of their upbringing, nor was it an automatic

and involuntary transfer of a tradition from parent to child.

Two preliminary questions asked at the start of each interview were:

Were you and your husband raised on a farm? How many years have you been

farming? Farm wives mused over both these questions and gave us an account

of their entry into farming. The account of one farm wife provides a case

in point.

The wife's parents farmed across the border in Georgia. Her husband's

parents were, as she put it, "from right around here. His mother lived half

a mile away." Of her own family, she said, "they don't farm any more. Most

have moved out. They have jobs in other counties." However she added,

"Every now and then some of them move back this way."

When the same couple got married in 1938, they lived at the husband's

old family home, and he started farming with his father. Four years later

he got a job with a timber company and had to commute 22 miles. They had no

transportation to go back and forth so they moved closer to his job and lived

there for nine years. But as she says, "all that time he was making plans


to come back here. He always liked to farm, and cattle is his main love."

In the meantime, her husband had inherited part of his father's farm, and

he bought 80 acres more from the other family members for $400 and another

40 acres later from his uncle for $800 before;moving back to farming full-time.

While living away at his job, they spent their weekends coming back

to the farm and working. He gave up his job with the timber company when

he would have had to move further south with them. He then went to work

at the state hospital in 1965. By this time their youngest son was 10 years

old and the wife also went to work there a year later. About this time her

husband found out that he could get layer chickens and they acquired three

houses. He quit his job, after having worked for two years, and she quit

soon after, having worked one year. As she explains it: "He thought we

would have to hire somebody to work for him, so it was better for us to

be home. You can't make a go at the chickens if you don't stay with it almost

night and day, seven days a week."

This account of one family's entry into farming is typical of the

sample and perhaps gives a more wholistic picture than the data in tables

2 to 6, which summarize the demographic characteristics of the farmers in

both the Baker and Gilchrist County samples. As seen in table 2, 89 percent

of the men and 74 percent of the women were raised on farms in the same or

adjoining counties. Only 11 percent of the men and 26 percent of the women

were not raised on farms. Seventy percent of the husbands and 46 percent of

the wives have relatives who also farm.

The average age of the men is 50 years and that of the women is 47.2

years. As expected, farm husbands are older than farm wives. Fifty-three

percent of the men in comparison to only 20 percent of the women are over 60

years of age. Thirteen percent of the men and 22 percent of the women are


between 50 to 60 years of age; while 34 percent of the men and 58 percent

of the women are under 50 years of age.

Table 2: Comparison of some characteristics of farm husbands and wives.

Raised on a farm
Not raised on a farm
Have relatives who farm

Average years of age

Over 60 years of age
50 to 60 years of age
Under 50 years of age


In bad health

Has formal training in


Number (Percent)

42 (89%)
5 (11%)
33 (70%)





Number (Percent)

37 (74%)
13 (26%)
23 (46%)




Five men and 3 women are not in good health. Three women are widows.

Thirty eight percent of the men as compared to only 8 percent of the women have

had some formal training in agriculture. This was either a college degree,

some years of college work in an agricultural related field or experience in


Future Farmers of America. One woman did some college work in entomology.

Others attended training programs in budget and record keeping and gardening.

Stages in the life cycle

A better way to describe the composition of the sample of farm men and

women can be had by categorizing them by what stage in the life cycle they're

in. "Young, middle-aged, and old" are relative terms, but it is helpful to

know how many women and men are younger, middle-aged, and older in the sample.

Women's stages in the life dycle

Rows 1 to 3 in table 3 show the average age and number of women in the

sample in different stages of their life cycle. The data show there are 24

young women with youngest child less than 15 years of age. The average age of

these women is 36 years. All but 2 of these women farm part-time or work off

the farm, part-or full-time, or both. The data thus show, when younger farm

women stay home to care for their children, they are also busy being part-time

farmers. The middle-aged women, whose children are older than 15 years, have

54 years of age on the average. Thus there are 19 middle-aged women in the

sample, all of whom farm or work off the farm. Finally, there are 7 older

women in the sample who are retired or semi-retired from farm or off-farm

work. Their average age is 68 years.

Instead of grouping the women in the sample by the age of their youngest

child, it is possible to group them by occupation, as seen in rows 4 to 7 of

the table. However, the data in these rows show no significant difference

in the ages of farm wives (or their youngest child) who farm full-time, part-

time, or less than 8 hours per week. There is also no difference in


Table 3: Women's stages in the life cycle.

Life cycle stages: Number Average age

1. Women have children less than 15 years
old and may farm or work off-farm 24 36.0

2. Women have children greater than 15 years
old and definitely farm or work off the farm 19 54.15

3. Women are retired or semi-retired from
off-farm work and farming 7 68.0

total 50

4. Women have full-time farm work (average
age of youngest child = 17 years) 11 45.1

5. Women have full-time off-farm work (average
age of youngest child = 14.36) 14 44.07

6. Women have part-time off-farm work (average
age of youngest child = 14.7 years) 15 43.3

7. Women semi-retired from farming, farming less
than 8 hours a week.(average age of youngest
child = 15.8 years) 13 44.5

age between women who have full-time off-farm work and those who farm full-

time. Apparently in this sample, women have children and go right back to

work, either on the farm or off the farm.

Men's stages in the life cycle

The data in table 4 show the average age and number of men sampled in

the different stages of their life cycle. In contrast to the way the women

are grouped, by age of youngest child, the men are grouped by occupational

status, since they usually do not stay at home taking care of children. The


data show no significant difference in the ages of farm men in rows 1 to 3.

Thus, the average age of the 20 men who have full-time off-farm work (47

years) is not much different than the average age of the 11 men who are full-

time farmers with no off-farm work (48.4 years). The average age of the 7

men who have part-time off-farm work while they farm full- or part-time (44

years) is also not significantly different. (The terms "full-time" and "part-

time" will be defined in Chapter II.) However, the data do show a difference

in the average age of ill men (59 years) in row 4. These men are retired from

off-farm work and either farm part-time or not at all. In row 5 are 3 even

older men, with the average age of 78.7 years. These men have retired from

off-farm work but are farming full-time. They remind one of a line in a Joan

Baez song, "these men don't age; they just prepare. ."

Table 4: Men's stages in the life cycle.

Life cycle stages: Number Average age

1. Men have full-time off-farm work 20 47.0

2. Men are full-time farmers with no off-
farm work 11 48.4

3. Men have part-time off-farm work and farm
full- or part-time 7 44.0

4. Men retired from off-farm work who farm part-
time or not at all because of illness 6 59.0

5. Older men are full-time farmers who have
retired from off-farm work 3 78.7


Farm family composition

As will be documented in later chapters, "raising children right" is

a major reason families farm. Moreover, children's labor is an important

resource of the family farm and especially the mother. Some data concerning

the children is therefore summarized in table 5.

The 50 farm families sampled have, on the average, 3.5 children per

family. The average age of the child is 20.4 years. The average age of the

youngest child is 15.8 years. Sixty percent of the families have teenagers

or grown children living at home. Twenty-six percent have children who live

on their own, but are available if needed. Ten percent have children less

than 10 years of age, and only 4 percent have no children. Of the total number

of children, 17 percent have had some training in agricultural-related fields.

This includes a college degree, some years of college, FFA or 4-H.

Fourteen families have at least one grown child who farms on his or her

own. A few families have two and three children who farm, bringing the

number of all children who farm to 17.

The family farm

Given these data about the size and age composition of the farm family,

some background information about the history and size of the family farm is

presented in table 6. Since marriage the farm couples have been farming an

average of 21.6 years. Half of them purchased their farm when they first

started farming; 20 percent both inherited a farm and purchased some more land

to farm. Sixteen percent rented or borrowed land to farm, and 14 percent

inherited their first farm.

The initial size of farm when couples started farming was 104 acres on

the average. This acreage was either owned or rented and borrowed. The


Table 5: Farm family composition.

Total or average
for all farms Percent

Average number of children per family 3.5

Average age of children 20.4

Average age of youngest child 15.8

Numbers of farm families who have:
-teenage/grown children at home 30 60%
-grown children not at home, but
available if needed 13 26%
-children less than 10 years of age 5 10%
-no children 2 4%
Number of children with some agricultural
training 28 17%
Total number of children who farm on
their own 17 10%
Number of families with children who
farm 14 28%


Table 6: Some characteristics of the family farm.

Total or average
for all farms

Number of years couples have been farming

Number of farm families for whom first
farm was:
-inherited and bought
-rented or borrowed

Number of farms sold

Part of farm is given away to children or

Initial size of farm when couples started
farming (owned, rented or borrowed)

Size of farm in 1981:

-acres owned
-acres rented or borrowed
-acres rented out
Total acres operated




104 acres

336 acres

Number of farms by size:


to 49 acres
to 99 acres
to 219 acres
to 499 acres
to 999 acres
acres or more




average operating size now in 1981 is 336 acres. This size ranges from 5 to

3000 acres across the sample. Breakdown by size is as follows: 16 farms

(32%) operate farms under 49 acres; 4 farms (8%) range between 50 and 99

acres. Another 15 farms (30%) operate between 100 to 219 acres. Five farms

(10%) are in the 200 to 499 acre category; 5 farms (10%) are between 500 to

999 acres; and 3 farms (6%) operate 1000 or more acres. Two farms were sold.

Farms thus range across all sizes with concentrations in the 219 acres or

less range.

Predominance of crops and livestock

In all, farm families in Baker and Gilchrist Counties produce 18

different types of crops for sale or for animal feed (as seen in table 7);

and 14 types of livestock and poultry (as seen in table 8). Among the crops

raised, hay is the most popular and is grown by slightly less than half,or

on 23 farms, followed by pasture, grown on 20 farms. Field corn is grown

on slightly more than one-third of the farms; and timber is raised on 14 farms.

Winter rye is grown on 13 or 26 percent of the farms. Rye and millet, raised

by 8 farmers, are generally grown at different seasons by the same farmers.

These farmers also have small acreage which limits production of corn or hay

for feed.

Vegetables (cucumbers, bell peppers, squash and eggplants) are grown on

9 or 18 percent of the farms, and watermelons on 9 farms. Pecans are raised

for sale and home consumption on 7 farms (14%), grain sorgum by 6 farmers

(12%). Tobacco and soybeans are raised by 5 farmers each. Fewer than 10

percent of the farmers raise peanuts, cantaloupes, oats, perennial peanuts, or

have a fruit nursery, or an ornamental nursery.


Table 7: Predominance of crops in Baker and Gilchrist counties: 1980-1981.

Total for both counties:
Crops Number of producers Percent of producers

Hay 23 48.0
Pasture 20 40.0
Field corn 18 36.0
Timber 14 28.0
Winter Rye 13 26.0
Vegetables 9 18.0
Watermelons 9 18.0
Millet 8 16.0
Pecans 7 14.0
Grain sorghum 6 12.0
Tobacco 5 10.0
Soybean 5 10.0
Peanuts 4 8.0
Cantaloupes 3 6.0
Oats 3 6.0
Fruit nursery 2 4.0
Ornamental nursery 2 4.0
Perennial Peanuts 2 4.0


Table 8: Predominance of livestock in Baker and Gilchrist Counties: 1980-1981.


Beef cattle
Assorted poultry and game birds
Dairy cattle
Chicken broilers
Chicken layers
Hunting dogs
Soft shell turtle

Total, for both counties:

Number of producers Percent of

33 66.6
15 30.0
13 26.0
8 16.0
8 16.0
6 12.0
4 8.0
3 6.0
3 6.0
2 4.0
2 4.0
1 2.0
1 2.0
1 2.0

Beef cattle are the predominant type of livestock, raised by 33 or

66.6 percent of the farmers; followed by hogs on 15 farms (30%), assorted

poultry and game birds on 13 farms (26%), goats and horses on 8 farms each

(16% each), and dairy cattle on 6 farms (12%). Chicken broilers on 4 farms

and chicken layers on 3 farms are raised on contract. Less than three farms

have calves, mules, rabbits and hunting dogs. Alligators and soft shell

turtles are raised in combination on one farm only.


Farming systems

Unfortunately, lists of the main crops grown and the major livestock

raised on the farm as seen in tables 7 and 8, are not very informative, since

each farm, in itself, is a complex system of crops and livestock. Therefore,

patterns of combinations of crops and livestock were searched out in the data,

and types of "farming systems" were noted and counted. In table 9, the major

combinations of crops and livestock, or "farming systems", observed in the

sample are categorized.

The most popular farming system in both counties is centered around

cattle, pasture and/or hay. Thirteen farms have cattle, hay and/or pasture.

In addition, 6 of these 13 farms have rye; 4 farms have corn; 4 farms have

timber; 2 farms each have millet and tobacco; and one farm has an ornamental

nursery. Of the other types of animals found on these farms, 6 farms have

assorted poultry; 2 farms have goats, and 2 farms have calves. Dairy replace-

ment heifers and hunting dogs are found on one farm each.

A second system which is found only in Baker County centers around

chicken houses. Seven farms have either broilers or layers raised on contract,

and all of them also have cattle. In addition, 4 farms have hay and pasture;

*3 farms have timber; and 3 farms have corn. Millet is grown on three farms,

rye on two farms, and oats on one farm. The other animals raised are: hogs

on two farms, goats on two farms, and horses and calves on one farm each.

The second type of farming system is a good example of the concept

of "system," since it shows quite clearly the interrelationships between

the crops and livestock. How they canbine to form a system is diagramed in

figure 2. At the extreme lefthand side or starting point of the diagram

is the commodity "chicken layers," upon which the system is "centered."


Table 9: Predominance of crops and livestock raised in combination on Baker
and Gilchrist county farms; 1980-1981.

Number of farms Total in
Baker Gilchrist both counties
(n=30) (n=20)

Cattle, pasture and/or hay, or millet
and rye or oats, or corn, or timber 7 6 13

Chicken houses, cattle, pasture and/
or hay, or millet and rye or millet
and oats, or corn 7 7

Cattle, corn, hay and/or pasture,
watermelons, soybeans or grain
sorgum 1 6 7

Vegetables and/or tobacco, or
corn, hogs or cattle or assorted
poultry 6 2 8

Timber, pasture or hay 5 1 6

Pecans, peanuts or corn, or hay or
pasture or sorghum or millet or oats 1 3 4

Hogs, alligator and soft shelled
turtles 2 2

Nursery (ornamental horticulture) 1 1

Sold farm 2 2

30 20



Chicken layers produce eggs, which are sold (on the extreme righthand side

of the diagram), and cracked eggs, which are fed to hogs, and chicken manure,

which can either be sold (to a neighbor by an enterprising teenager) or

applied to one's own hay fields or pasture grass. Field corn, sometimes

produced by the farmer with this type of system and sometimes bought, can be

fed to hogs and cattle. In times of expected drought, grain sorghum is sub-

stituted for field corn. Timber enters the picture because cattle are grazed

on timber land or pasture grass, or are fed hay. (The latter two commodities

have both benefited from the chicken manure by this time.) In all, there are

7 products that can be sold: timber, eggs (on contract), hay, chicken manure,

cattle, hogs, and field corn or grain sorghum. Since some of these final

products are actually used as inputs of production to other products, thus

decreasing the farmer's operating expenses, the combination of crops and

livestock is a "farming system."

In system three, all 7 farms have cattle, hay, and watermelons. Five

farms also have corn, 4 farms have grain sorghum; 3 farms each have pasture,

soybeans, and rye; and 2 farms have peanuts. One farm has cantaloupes and

oats. Hogs are also raised on three farms.

System four is found on 8 farms. Seven farms raise vegetables; 4

farms have tobacco; 3 farms have corn, and 3 pasture. Two farms each raise

cantaloupes and rye, and one farm each plants silage corn and millet. Of

the livestock found on these farms, 6 farms have hogs; and 5 farms have

cattle. Three farms have assorted poultry and one farm each has horses

and guinea hens.

System five is timber-centered. Two farms also have pasture, one farm

has hay and one farm raises peas. The only animals found are diary cows

and calves on one farm.


Figure 2: A diagram of farming system 2


In system 6, all 4 farms have pecans. Two farms each also raise

peanuts, corn, and hay. One farm each has pasture, grain sorghum, millet

and oats. Two farms have assorted poultry, and one farm each has cattle

and hogs.

System eight is exclusively a nursery.

This too-brief discussion of farming systems "wraps up" our introductory

remarks about the farm women we interviewed and the farms that we visited.

Next on the agenda is the real topic of this report: What do farm women

do with their time, and how do they help keep the family farm going?


Work Decisions of Farm Wives

"My youngest two childrenwere16 and 13,
and at the stage when they really needed me.
And I only have a high-school education. So
it was much more profitable for me to go into
the chicken business than it was to get an
outside job..."
(a Baker County full-time farmer,
housekeeper, and mother)

As seen in the last two tables, farm wives have a large number of

work options and alternatives open to them, in deciding whether to farm

full-time or part-time, work off the farm full-time or part-time, or

do a combination of the above. These alternatives are represented in

the set (denoted by 3) seen at the top of the decision tree in

Figure 4.

A decision tree is a model of how an individual decides between

several alternatives. In this instance, the tree in Figure 4 is a model

of farm wives' decisions between the various work options open to them.

The model was formulated, after listening to farm wives' statements

about their job options--like the above quote, and observing the patterns

in the data. To some extent, the model is supposed to reflect a farm

wife's thought process, as she decides whether to get an outside job or

stay at home on the farm. She may also be deciding whether to keep or

quit her nonfarm job, in favor of farming full-time.

A host of factors enter into an individual's decision process.

These are called "decision criteria" or "constraints" and can be read

in the diamonds (denoted by < >) at the "nodes" or branching points

of the tree. They are the questions an individual farm wife asks

50 cases The Decision of a Farm Wife
Sto Farm Full- or Part-Time
oor Work Off the Farm
ull-time farming(FTF); part-time farming(PTF); full-time off-farm work(FOFW) o W O t
part-time off-farm work(POFW); a combination of farming and off-farm work

Are you retired,
too old, or too ill to perform yes Eliminate FTF, FOFW,
work X? and POWF. Farm part-time
SI / 7 cases (2 errors)
no: 43 cases who farm 12.3 hrs/wk
Sand work 0 hrs/wk
/off the farm; average
es fthe family need vou to 2 age is 68 years

be at home because you have young
children (age < 15 years) or an
ill husband or relative who
needs care?
I t

yes: 28 cases

24 cases with children
4 cases with ill husband
average age of wife is 40.2 years

no: 15 cases

(average age of wife is 51.2 years)

Can you base
an off-farm business
at home or get an off-farm
ob that allows you to be home
when your children
are home?

yes: 12 cases

Combine part- or
full-time off-
farm work with
part- or full-
time farming,
housework, and
child care

12 cases who
farm 20.3
hrs/wk and
work off the
farm 9 7 hr/

wk on the

no: 16 cases
ff-farm Income> farm income?
of wife wife's work /
\ on the farm/

yes: 4 cases/

Can you arrange 5
for a close relative
to babysit? Will the
additional income be
worth the added
expense of a
ba k tt r

no: 12 cases

Do you have 6
chicken houses
\n your farm?

/ \

ys e yes
yes no

Have a full- Be a part- or Be a full-
time off-farm full-time time farmer,
job; do little farmer, housekeeper,
or no farming; housekeeper, and mother
do housekeeping and mother
and part-time 6 cases who
child care farm 56 hrs/

4 cases who farm
3.3 hrs/wk
work 40 hrs/wk
off the farm on
the average

0 cases

wK anu wUor
1.8 hrs/wk
off the farm
(1 error)

SDoes the farm 7
need your presence?
Does you husband require
your help as substitute
manager and laborer?


yes: 11 cases
/Can you combine 8
_off-farm work withy
farming? /


Be a part-
time farmer,
and mother

6 cases who
farm 11.5 hrs/wk
and work
0 hrs/wk
off the farm


Do both part-
or full-time
farming and
work off the
farm part- or

7 cases who farm
22.3 hrs/wk and
work off the farm
27.1 hrs/wk on
the average

ff-farm income >

no: 4 cases

Have a full-time
off-farm job; do
little or no
farming; do
4 cases who farm
2.2 hrs/wk and work
33.8 hrs/wk off
the farm

A farm income?
wife's wor

yes no

Have a full- Be a full-
time off-farm time farmer
job; do little and house-
or no farming keeper

1 case who farms 3 cases who
7 hrs/wk and farm 58 hrs/wk
works 40 hrs/wk and work 0
off the farm hrs/wk off the farm

Figure 4



herself during the decision process. For example, one decision criteria

in Figure 4 is: "Does the family need you to be at home, because you

have young children less than 15 years old, or an ill husband or relative

who needs care?" Questions such as this one are put at branching points

in a decision tree, because an individual either answers yes or no. If

she answers yes she--or more accurately her responses--are sent down

a left-hand branch of the tree to a particular alternative, e.g., "Stay

at home and farm." If no, she is sent down a right-hand branch of the

tree to choose the other alternative, e.g., "Get an outside job." Of

course, the tree gets more complicated and has more branches, when

decision makers ask themselves more questions and consider more factors.

Based on a particular woman's answers to several questions or

decision criteria, which are arranged in a logical sequence from the top

of the tree to the bottom, the decision tree model predicts what "out-

come" or alternative the woman chooses. The "outcomes" of the choice

can be read in the boxes ( I ) at the bottom of the paths of the tree,

and give the decision maker commands. For example, one outcome in Figure

4 says, "Be a full-time farmer, housekeeper, and mother." If in fact

the woman is a full-time farmer, the model is correct. If she is a

part-time farmer, however, the model has made an error in prediction.

By asking a number of farm wives the same questions, and putting their

responses "down the tree," and counting the number of errors the model

makes, a researcher can tell how accurate the model is. If the model is

accurate, policy recommendations can be made. Because the model in

Figure 4 only makes 3 errors with responses from 50 farm women, for a

success rate of 94%, policy recommendations can be taken from this model.


Before they can be offered, however, a brief explanation of all the

decision criteria and paths of the tree in Figure 4 is necessary.

The first question or criterion in the decision tree eliminates

some kinds of work that are too strenuous and taxing for the older farm

wives that were interviewed, by asking, "Are you too old or ill to per-

from work?" Since farm wives older than 65 years of age usually retire

from off farm work and full-time farming, the model uses this age as a

threshold age to predict which women retire. While this criterion pre-

dicts correctly for five women over 65 years old, two women in their

late fifties have also retired from off-farm work, however, and are

2 errors in prediction of the model. The average age of the 7 women

(whose data are sent) on this path of the tree is 68 years. They farm

12.3 hours/week on the average and have no off farm work.

The second decision criterion reflects the fact that farm wives

put their families first, before their own professional goals or aspira-

tions. It asks, "Does the family need you to be at home, because you

have young children less than fifteen years of age, or an ill husband

or relative who needs care?" Twenty-eight women (24 women with young

children and 4 women with ill husbands who need care) answer yes and

proceed down the left-hand branch of the tree. Their average age is

40.2 years. Fifteen women say no, however, and are sent down the right

hand branch of the tree. Their average age is 51.2 years.

Criterion 3 on the left-hand path of the tree asks if women can

combine an off-farm job or business with child or husband care. Twelve

women say yes, their job allows them to be home when their children are

home. The outcome in the box at the end of the outermost left-hand


path thus commands these 12 women, "Combine part- or full -r e ,ff farm

work with part- or full-time farming, housework, and child,.care." There

are no errors on this path, and the 12 women farm 20.3,hours/,week, work

25.1 hours/week off the farm, on the average'and care for,their children.

Off the farm, they are school teachers, school bus drivqrs,.cooks in school

cafeterias, part-time real estate agents, beauticians with a.beauty parlor

at home, and sellers of cosmetics. However, there are l6.women who can't

combine off-farm work with child care, and so say no to criterion 3 and

go down the right-hand path to criterion 4.

These 16 women have to choose between staying home to take care of

their children (and farming while at home) vs. getting an off-farm job,

because they cannot combine the two jobs. They therefore ask themselves,

in criterion 4, if the off-farm income they would earn would be greater

than the farm income they could earn by staying home and farming, while

watching their children. If their potential earnings from an outside

job are high -- due to a college degree or previous job training, then

they will decide about hiring a babysitter for the children in criterion

5. If they decide to hire a babysitter, or arrange for a close relative

to babysit, the model sends them to the outcome, "Have a full-time, off-

farm job; do little or no farming; keep house and care for your children

After work." As seen in figure 4, the results show that 4 women choose

this alternative: they farm only 3.3 hours per week but work off the farm

40 hours/week on average.

However, the numbers in figure 4 also show that 12 of 16 women cannot

earn more from "an outside job" than they can by farming or helping out

at home. As exemplified by the quote beginning this section, it is more

profitable for these women to either.start or expand a farm enterprise,


than to arrange for a babysitter and return to a low-paying off-farm

job as a waitress, a secretary, a bookkeeper, or a clerk. The model

then asks these women if there are chicken houses on their farms. If

there are, the model predicts the woman will'be a full-time farmer and

farm more than 40 hours per week, in addition to keeping house and

caring for children. As expected, 6 women with chicken houses follow

this path and reach the outcome, "Be a full-time farmer, housekeeper,

and mother." They farm for 56 hours per week on average, and work only

1.8 hours/week off the farm. Unfortunately, one woman who only farms

part-time due to age also goes down this path. The model fails to

predict her part-time farm work and so commits a third error in pre-


The reader should note that criterion: 6, "Do you have chicken

houses?" should be expanded to a subdecision to invest in chicken

houses for farm families who do not have them now. Moreover, it could

be expanded to include other labor-intensive, lucrative farm enterprises

that a full-time woman farmer could manage, with her husband "pitching


While 6 women go down "the full-time farmer" path because of chicken

houses, 6 women do not. They do not have chicken houses and are sent to

the outcome, "Be a part-time farmer, housekeeper, and mother." As ex-

pected, they farm only 11.5 hours per week and do no off-farm work.

However, some of these women do spend many hours supervising teenagers

who farm, and they garden and keep the house. (This work will be dis-

cussed in the next section).

Whereas all the farm women discussed so far have been younger, with


a youngest child of less than 15 years, the 15 women who go down the

right-hand main path of the tree are older, with an average age of 51

years. Because they don't have young children or an ill husband who

needs them at home, they proceed down the tree to criterion 7, which

asks them if the farm requires their presence. If the size of the farm

or the labor-intensity of enterprise mix is such that they are needed

on the farm, they will probably not have a full-time off-farm job. If

they have to substitute for the husband as manager of the farm, because

he is away working at a higher-valued off-farm job, they probably will

not have an off-farm job.

The results of processing information from these 15 women show that

in 4 cases, the farm is so well established and developed that women's.

full-time labor is not now needed. These four women therefore answer

no to the question in criterion 7, and pass to the outcome, "Have a

full-time off-farm job; do little or no farming." As expected, these

women only farm 2 hours per week and work 33.8 hours per week off the

farm, on average.

The majority of these 15 women answer yes to criterion 7, however:

the labor of these 11 women is needed on the farm. These women thus

proceed to criterion 8, which -- like criterion 3 on the left-hand path

of the tree -- asks if the farm wife can do both off-farm work and farm

work. If she can, she can get income from two sources and doesn't have

to make a decision. The results show that there are 7 women who pass

criterion 8 and both farm (for 22 hours per week on average) and work

off the farm (for 27 hours per week). Their off-farm jobs include

driving a bus, working on other farms, and being a teacher or student.


The results also show that 4 of these 11 women cannot combine off-

farm work and farm work. They therefore proceed to criterion 4 which

has them compare their potential off-farm earnings to the increase in

farm income they could get from farming. Since off-farm income would

be higher for one farm woman, the model predicts she have a full-time

off-farm job. She does: she farms 7 hours per week and works a full

40 hours per week off the farm. For 3 women, however, farm income from

her work would be greater than nonfarm earnings, and the model predicts

she farm full-time. As expected, these 3 women farm 58 hours per week

and do no off-farm work.

In conclusion, the model predicts farm wives' work decisions cor-

rectly for 47 (or 94 percent of the) farm women. Because of the high

predictability of the model, policy recommendations to improve work

options for farm women can be made from these results. First, it is

clear that rural women need higher education and job training as much

as rural men do, since in so many cases they need to combine off-farm

work with farm work. Without a good educational background, farm women

do not have the option of combining farming with being a school teacher

or nurse. Clearly, these results show that it takes two off-farm jobs

in the family in order for the farm to survive. Second, more farming

systems, like the second farming system centered on chicken houses,

should be designed especially for full-time women farmers. 'In the fu-

ture, as more farm men are forced to work off the farm (to subsidize

the farm and pay for operating expenses), more farm women will substi-

tute for them as the full-time farmer in the family. They will then

need farming systems and enterprises designed especially for them and

their special skills. In effect, women farmers present a new challenge

to the designers of appropriate agricultural technology in Florida.


II Who Does What Within the Farm Family

by Christina H. Gladwin and Masuma Downie

"Anything worth having is hard work."

An understanding of farm wives' contribution to the family farm means

knowing who within the family -- of husband, wife, and children -- does

what on the farm. To understand what social scientists call "the sexual

division of labor," and economists call "labor allocation" on the family

farm, we asked farm women to describe some of the work they did for the

family and farm throughout the year. They identified four major work

dimensions: farm work, off-farm work, garden work, and housework. Along

each work dimension, women were asked to decide the major operations or

tasks performed by each family member throughout the year. They were then

asked when these tasks were done, and how much time they required, so that

a comparison could be made of the husband's, wife's, and children's labor

contribution to the family farm.

To gather the same information more precisely, we could have asked

some women to keep daily diaries of what the members of their family did on

the farm. After a year of such careful recording, we would have had a more

reliable picture of women's work on the farm. Given a lack of time and

budget, however, we relied on women's free recall of their major tasks and

responsibilities. This method created some problems. First, women may

have reported only those tasks which were especially demanding or unique,

or took most of their time. Second, many activities may not have been

mentioned because they were taken for granted. Third, women seemed to

downplay their role on the farm. When asked what they did, a common


response was, "we do whatever needs to be done; we pitch in." As one

woman stated, "if you are home and available, you're always on call."

In spite of such problems, however, some clear patterns of labor

allocation on the family farm emerge from the data. As expected, farm

men on the average spend more time doing farmwork, assume more responsi-

bility for commodity production, do more of the strenuous farm tasks, have

higher off-farm incomes coming into the farm, and make more of the farm-

related decisions than the farm women. Given men's contributions to the

farm, how do the women contribute? As will be documented in this chapter,

farm women's contributions complement, rather than compete with, those of

farm men on almost every work dimension. For example, while men perform

more hours of farmwork, women perform more hours of garden work and house-

work, and thus more total hours of work. (Off-farm work hours of men and

women are almost equal in this sample.) While men perform more strenuous

farm tasks, women do farm tasks which require physical dexterity, patience,

stamina, and nurturing abilities. While men have higher off-farm incomes,

women are more often juggling a part-time off-farm job with part-time farming

and child care. (Only when men are ill, away from the farm for extended

periods, or deceased, will women step in to become the "real" farmer in

the family.) Usually when men are full-time farmers producing a labor-

intensive commodity like vegetables or tobacco, however, women are also

full-time farmers, putting in as much time, energy, and management skills

as the men. Finally, whereas men make more of the farm-related decisions;

in total, women make more decisions on their own initiative than men do,

when one also looks at decisions concerning her off-farmwork, children,

and gardens. Why? Women are so helpful that most of the really important


family decisions (e.g., financial decisions) are made jointly by men and

women. In effect, the ability of farm women to "pitch in" and "be on call"

is what keeps the family farm "a joint venture," and allows both husband

and wife to focus their energies on the one goal of keeping the farm going.

The data documenting the farm wife's contribution to the farm and its

complementarity to the man's contribution are presented as follows. In

sections IIa and IIb, farm work and off-farm work of men and women will be

discussed. In section IIc, how men and women combine their farm and off-

farm work in the family will be outlined. In section IId, a model of farm

wives' decisions to farm full- or part-time or get an "outside job" will be

presented, followed by a description of housework, garden work, and children's


Farm work

On the dimension of farm work, division of labor in the family depends

first on the commodity to be produced, and second on the task or operation

to be performed to produce the commodity. There are some commodities (crops

and animals) which are mainly men's commodities because usually, most or

all of the work or tasks done to produce them is done by men (e.g., row

crops of corn, grain sorghum, watermelons and soybeans, plus hay, pasture,

timber, ornamental horticulture, cattle and hogs). Some commodities, however,

are mainly the responsibility aid work of women (e.g., garden vegetables,

chicken houses, goats, pecans, and assorted poultry); and some are the com-

bined responsibility of both men and women (e.g., tobacco, vegetables, and

game birds). Not all the tasks or operations in a men's commodity, however,

are done by men. Within men's commodities, there are some jobs or tasks


regularly done by women (e.g., bookkeeping, walking the chickens, fetching

repair parts, checking on new calves); while within women's commodities

there are some farm operations or tasks regularly performed by men (e.g.,

tractor work, mixing feed). In addition, some operations are joint

operations, involving both husband and wife (erg., harvesting and curing


Men's commodities

Men's commodities are commodities for which men take most of the

responsibility and perform most of the operations or tasks in the production

cycle. According to the women interviewed in Baker County, the major men's

commodities include cattle for 15 of the total of 19 family farms sampled

which produce cattle, hogs for all 9 producers, hay for 9 of 12 producers,

timber for 11 of 12 producers, field corn for 8 of 10 producers, and soybeans

for the one soybean producer sampled. In the rest of the cases, cattle is the

joint responsibility of both husband and wife; hay is a joint venture in 2

cases and the woman's sole responsibility in 1 case; timber is the woman's

"money crop" in 1 case; and field corn is a joint venture in 1 case and the

woman's responsibility in another.

In Gilchrist County, men's commodities also include cattle for 11

out of the 16 family farms sampled which raise cattle, hogs for 5 of 6

producers sampled, pasture for all 11 producers, field corn for the 7 pro-

ducers, watermelons for all 5 producers, soybeans for the 4 producers,

peanuts for the 3 producers, rye for the 8 producers, and grain sorghum

for the 5 producers.sampled. In the remaining cases, cattle is the joint

responsibility of both husband and wife in 2 cases, and the woman's sole


responsibility in 3 cases; and hogs are the woman's responsibility in 1


Even though these commodities are mostly the responsibility of men,

women regularly do some of the operations needed to produce them. In the

case of cattle, almost universally the man's responsibility, women help out

by regularly feeding and watering, penning and loading them. They supervise

cattle when the husband is ill or working off the farm, and help birth calves

if problems arise. One woman who is a nurse by training does all the veter-

inary work for the cattle. In the production of hay, for another example,

men may do the tractor work, fertilization, harvesting and baling; while

women generally help with the harvesting: they fluff the hay, drive the

truck behind the baler, lift and stack hay. If other help is present, women

supervise the labor. Some women may do more, as one woman testifies:

"In the hay fields, almost always I do the cutting, mowing,
and conditioning. Then I bale. Last year I baled every bale
of hay."

In the case of field corn, another men's commodity, women report driving grain

wagons, help fill the silo, and take corn to market. In watermelon production,

women perform the less strenuous operations during harvest: they drive the

truck or tractor onto the field for loading, pick the watermelons, pass

the watermelons in a line, and catch the watermelons as they are thrown up

onto the field truck. The more strenuous tasks, like throwing the watermelons

onto the truck or packing them in the buyers' truck are performed by men.

Women's commodities

"My pecan orchard is the kind of farming I like; it is totally mine."


"When the baby chicks are little I work a 1bt more than I do
when they get big. On the baby chicks, it takes about 4 to 5
hours a day. You have to put feed out manually in the feeders
for about 2 weeks, clean out the waters twice a day, make them
get up and move around. When you start running the automatic
equipment, you have to go out and make sure it's running right.
After the first two weeks it takes only 2 to 3 hours a day.
Unless it's real hot: then you're out there almost all afternoon
from 2 to 9 o'clock trying to keep them moving. My son helps
with the chickens, but it's mostly my responsibility. My
husband leaves it up to me to manage them. If I need something,
I tell my husband what to do. I deal with the company, the
contract, and the feed."

Women's commodities are commodities for which women usually take most

of the responsibility and perform most of the operations or tasks in the

production cycle. In Baker County, major women's commodities include

the garden for 16 out of 23 families who had a garden in 1981, chicken

houses for 6 out of 7 growers, pecans for at least the two women who reported

pecans (there may be more), and assorted poultry in two cases. In Gilchrist

County, women's commodities also include the garden for 7 out of 12

families who had a garden in 1981, pecans for 2 of 5 producers, goats for

2 of 5 producers, and assorted poultry in 4 out of 7 cases.

As was the case with men's commodities, even though these commodities

are mostly the responsibility of women, women do not perform all of the

necessary production tasks associated with the commodity. For example, chicken

houses are mainly the woman's responsibility since she deals with the poultry

company representative and spends long hours either packing eggs in the egg

room (with layers) or walking, feeding, watering, and sometimes burying the

chickens (with broilers). However, men and children help out by fixing the

chains and other equipment, removing and distributing the chicken manure,

and digging the trenches for the dead chickens. In addition, both husband


and wife sign the contract with the poultry company, and the whole family

cleans out the chicken houses between broods, usually a very strenuous and

dirty three-day operation.


"Concerning the garden, I tell him what I want grown and
he plants it. Then I harvest it and I put it up. I would
say the garden is totally mine."

Since the vegetable garden is the major woman's commodity, a more

detailed description of family labor allocation in the garden is in order.

In the two counties sampled and of a total of 35 gardens planted in 1981,

the garden was "her's" in 23 instances, "his" in 5 instances, and a joint

venture in 7 instances. However, men help out the women in "her garden,"

just as women help out with the men's commodities. As seen in table 10,

men usually prepare the land and plant the garden with the tractor, while

the women walk behind the planter changing seeds in the planter. They then

leave a few rows vacant that women and children later plant by hand. Women

then irrigate, cultivate with a hoe, and harvest, although some men also

report hoeing and harvesting. Men even "shell and shuck" vegetables to

help the women, since the "putting-up" or processing of the garden takes so

much time and must be done when the vegetables, and not the farm wife, are


In spite of the help of men and children, however, women do, on the

average, 126 hours of garden work during the 8 to 10 weeks of the spring/

summer garden period (or roughly 12.6 hours/week), as compared to only 51

hours of garden work performed by men and 66 more hours of garden work per-

formed by the children in the family, as seen in table 11. On average,

women work two and a half times as many hours as the men on the garden.

Table 10: Number of men and women performing certain gardening tasks.

Type of task

Number of men*

Number of women

1. Decide what to plant

2. Prepare the land

3. Plant

4. Hoe

5. Harvest

6. Shell and shuck vegetables

7. "Put up" or process for storage

*Number of respondents does not necessarily sum to the number of gardens
planted in 1981, as women who usually plant a garden but did not garden
in 1981 also responded to this question.

Table 11:

Hours of work per garden performed by men, women and children.

Hours worked by:



Baker County



Gilchrist County



Both counties



58.2 77.7

All children at home


The value of the garden lies, of course, in the family's being able

to cut down on consumption costs. As one woman said, "the garden keeps us

out of the grocery store." As seen in table 12, 78 percent of the family's

vegetables comes from the garden, even when some of the garden is sold or

given away. More on gardening goals will be presented in chapter IV.

Joint commodities

"Tobacco was our cash crop when we first started farming. You
need a cash crop to accumulate a cash flow to work with. We
grew 2 and 1/2 acres. I worked in Jacksonville for an insurance
company then. I'd come home and hoe or plant, and work until
10 to 11 at night and then get up in the morning and go to work."
(A Baker County farm wife)

Tobacco, raised only by 5 families now, and vegetables, raised by 8

families in the sample, are such labor-intensive commodities that their pro-

duction requires the labor of the whole family and hired help besides.

Tobacco, the crop which got many a small Florida family farm started, clearly

shows a farm family in action. Men fumigate and prepare the seedbed; women

plant the seeds and transplant with the help of planters. Either men or

women may fertilize. However, the hoeing, pruning, and suckering the tops

is generally women's work, although husband and children also help. Husbands

supervise the harvesting, and wives supervise the stringing, storage, curing,

and bulk-barn operations. Depending upon the size of allotment, a dozen or

more hands may be needed once a week for four to five weeks during the har-

vesting of tobacco. Generally women also cook a large meal for the hired

help, relatives, and children who assist in the work. Teenage women in the

family, as well as teenage sons, also get to work hard during the harvest,

sometimes driving the tractors pulling the tobacco bins and unloading the

bins onto the racks, as seen in the photos on the cover. Finally, both

Table 12: Number and percent of farm families who have a garden in 1981.

No. (%)

Number of farmers who:

No. (%)

Both counties
No. (%)

1. Have a garden

2. Have stopped raising a garden;
(vegetables are provided by
relatives or friends)

3. Have no garden this year.

4. Average size of garden is
1.6 acres

5. Use of garden produce:
Give away

6. Average number of freezers
owned by family:

7. Percent of vegetables raised
in own garden and/or put up

23 76% 12 60% 35 70%



1.6 acres


1.5 acres



1.5 acres





72% 78%



husband and wife transport cured tobacco to the auction houses for marketing.

Vegetables, because of their labor-intensity, are also a "joint

commodity" of husband, wife, and children. Generally the land preparation,

planting, spraying, and dusting is done by men; the hoeing, fertilizing,

weeding, and sometimes spraying and dusting, are done by women. Harvesting

is done by the whole family, although some wives refuse to harvest certain

vegetables, like peppers and cucumbers. The marketing of vegetables is

generally the man's responsibility, unless a particular vegetable happens

to be the woman's "money crop", in which case they market it themselves.

Hunting and fishing, or the production of meat or fish for family

consumption might be thought of as a joint commodity, to stretch the

definition a little. The existence of hunting clubs testify to the social

aspects of hunting, often enjoyed by the whole family. As seen in table

13, members of 22 families from our sample hunt; while members of 27 families

fish. (Unfortunately, the sex of the family member was not coded.) More-

over, 64 percent of the meat or fish consumed by the family is raised (or

caught, but mostly raised) by the family, to cut down on consumption expenses.

Farming operations: who does what?

"The only thing I don't do is drive a tractor. I can drive
it if I need to, but if I don't learn, then I don't have to do
it. I have done the haying. I load the trailers, or I drive
it. And I check the cows, the water. It takes about an hour.
I always run back and forth buying things that are needed. We
have all of our own equipment to do the hay. My husband takes
care of all the equipment; he keeps it greased and repaired.
I've hauled all the cows and hogs to market in the past.

The last year my youngest son has been a lot of help. The
hogs are his responsibility. I don't like the hogs. We have
about 60 hogs now, and about 30 babies. But I go behind him
and make sure the hogs are taken care of."


Table 13: Number and percent of farm families who provide own meat for
family consumption.

Baker Gilchrist Both counties
Number of farmers who: No. (%) No. (%) No. (%)

1. Raise own beef or purchase in
bulk for the freezer 27 90% 12 60% 39 78%

2. Raise/purchase hogs 18 60% 11 55% 29 58%

3. Raise goats for meat 1 3.3% 2 10% 3 6%

4. Raise assorted poultry, game 3 10% 9 45% 12 24%

5. Birds, rabbits, alligators 3 15% 3 6%

6. Hunt 8 27% 14 70% 22 44%

7. Fish 15 50% 12 60% 27 54%

8. Stock own fish pond 2 66% 2 10% 4 8%

9. Percent of meat raised, and/
or put up 75% 53% 64%

by number of farmers: 26 16 42

The data in table 14, as well as the previous quote, show that there

are some farming operations or tasks performed predominantly by men, some

mainly by women, and some by children. Since data on the kinds of tasks

performed by men, women, and children was elicited in a very open-ended way,

as explained previously, the numbers in table 14 do not necessarily sum to

the sample size. However, they clearly show patterns of labor allocation.


Table 14:

Number of men, women, and children performing certain farm

Type of task

1. Tractor work

2. Marketing of animals

3. Marketing of crops

4. Fixing chicken-house equipment

5. Care of chicken and eggs

6. Record keeping

7. Care of animals

8. Supervision of animals

9. Care of crops

10. Supervision of crops

11. Gopher and chauffeur

12. Physical upkeep of farm

of men













of women













Number of









*The numbers in this table do not necessarily sum to sample size.

In general, men perform tasks requiring strength and mechanical know-

how: tractor work, supervision and marketing of animals, and repair of farm

equipment, fences, roads, and buildings. In addition, men make use of

"ole boy" networks when they market crops and livestock. Women, on the other

hand, perform tasks which require dexterity, patience, stamina, and nurturing

abilities. Again as seen in table 14, they care for animals and crops as much


as or more than men do, using their dexterity to plant tobacco seedbeds

and transplant potted plants, and their nurturing abilities to care for

animals. They undoubtedly use patience and stamina while keeping the farm's

financial records and being the gopher and chauffeur of the farm family.

Finally, table 14 shows that farm children care for crops and animals, as

expected, and do tractor work: One 11 year-old son had his own "little

Massey Ferguson" to mow grass and weeds around the chicken houses.

In conclusion, farm men and women use their particular strengths and

special skills in a complementary way, in order to keep the farm going.

The complementarity of men's and women's work can also be seen in data on

hours per week worked on the farm: on the average, men in the sample work

34.7 hours/week while women work 21.8 hours/week, not including garden work.

By working together, the family minimizes the hours of work put into the

farm by both men and women, so that some of their time can be spent bringing

in a more-stable income from off-farm work, the topic of the next section.


Off-Farm Work

"Off-farm work is financially more
important but not as rewarding..."

"With the standards we have, we have
to have off farm jobs..."

The importance and role of off-farm work in subsidizing and main-

taining the family farm has been well recognized and documented at the
national level. In the aggregate, non-farm income of farm families now

exceeds what they earn from farming. The growing influence of off-farm

income has occurred in the last twenty years, due to the growth of rural

nonfarm job opportunities: of the 6.2 million farm residents in 1978,

3.3 million were in the work force, and 44 percent of these were not

employed in agriculture.5 The contribution of off-farm work to family

income, of course, varies with the size of farm. As shown in figure 3,

it is ten times greater than farm income for the smallest size of farm,

but one-fifth of farm income for the largest size of farm, at the

national level.

(Figure 3)


Sales Percent.
class of farms
$2,500 34.1
4,999 3
5,000- 10.5
10,000- 11.0
20,000- 12.1
40,000- 14.9
100,000 7.1
and over

All farms


Source: ESS/USDA.

come ($17,640)

Non-farm income

10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Income ($1,000)

Figure 3. Income per Farm Operator Family, By Farm Size, 1978


Along with the growth in rural nonfarm employment opportunities,

part-time farming in the U.S. has developed as a permanent institution.

While many experts used to believe that part-time farming was a tran-

sitional stage for farmers either entering or leaving farming, the

stability of part-time farming operations is' by now widely recognized.

Clearly, the off-farm incomes earned by farm husbands, wives, and some-

times children serve to not only supplement farm earnings and raise the

standard of living of the family, but also provide capital for farm

investment purposes.

In the Baker and Gilchrist County samples, the emergence of part-

time farming and the importance of off-farm work and income is clearly

seen. In the Baker County sample, 18 men and 16 women work-off the farm

to some extent presently; while in the Gilchrist County sample, 11 men

and 13 women now have some kind of off-farm work. The different types

of off-farm jobs held by farm men and women are shown in Table 15.

Clearly, the majority of farm men are employed in private businesses

such as seed and feed stores, construction companies, insurance, real

estate; while the majority of farm women are employed in schools and

colleges as teachers, cafeteria workers, and school bus drivers. The

importance of these off-farm jobs can be seen by the fact that, of the

43 farm families sampled with spouses of less than retirement age, there

are only 6 families in which neither spouse has some kind of off-farm

work and income at the present time. The remaining 37 families combine

part or full-time farming with part- or full-time off-farm fork.

Before the various combinations of farming and off-farm work are

described, however, other estimates of the importance of off-farm income


Tablel5: Types of off-farm jobs held by men and women

No. of No, of
men employed women employed

County/state governments 6 3

Schools, colleges 4 11

Hospitals, prisons 3 3

Private business 13 9

Other farmers 1 3
(e.g., custom combining)

Telephone Company 2 0

Total 29 29


need to be examined. First, the relative importance of off-farm income

and farm income to total family income can be seen in Tablel6, The

table was constructed from questions asking farm women to rank the

several sources of family income in order of their relative importance.

An ordering of income sources was asked for, rather than quantitative

estimates of the size of farm and off-farm incomes, because the latter

kind of questing offends some people. The results, seen in the first

row of the table, show that nearly half (42 percent) of the women rank

their husband's off-farm income as their Number 1 income source; while

another 12 percent rank it as Number 2. Following husband's off-farm

income is farm income: more than one third (36%) of the women rank

farm income from crops, livestock, and chicken houses as Number 1; while

46 percent rank it as Number two; 62 percent rank it as their third

biggest source of income; and 40 percent rank it as their fourth most

important source of income. Following farm income in importance is, in

this sample at least, the off-farm income of the wife. As seen in the

fourth row of Tablel6, only 8 percent of the women rank their own off-

farm work as the biggest source of family income; while 20 percent of

.the women rank it as the Number 2 source, and 8 percent rank it as Number

3. Income from retirement plans and social security is the most important

source of income for 12 percent (six) of the farm families sampled,

followed by income from savings and investment sources for only 2 percent

of the sample. The data therefore show that, for more farm families,

husband's off-farm income is more important than farm income to total

family income; while farm income is more important than off-farm income

of the wife, which is usually more important than retirement income or


Tablel6. Relative importance of off-farm and farm incomes, ranked by
farm women

Number and percent of farm women who rank
the source of income as:
Source of income No.1 (%) No.2 (%) No.3 %) No.4 (%)

Off farm income of husband 21 42% 6, 12% 0 0

Farm income:
crops (including timber) 10 20% 11 22% 16 32% 10 202
livestock, excluding 4 8% 10 20% 14 28% 10 202
chicken houses 4 8% 2 4% 1 2% 0

Off-farm income of wife 4 8% 10 20% 4 8% 2 4,

Retirement/social security 6 12% 3 6% 1 2% 0

Savings and investment 1 2% 5 10% 5 10% 1 2%

No other source of income 3 6% 9 18% 27 540

Total 50 100% 50 100% 50 100% 50 100%


savings and investment. The data further show that most farm families

diversify their income sources: 94 percent of the families sampled

have two sources of income, while 82 percent have three sources of income,

and 46 percent have four sources of income. Clearly, off farm income

plays an important if not the most importantrole in the maintenance and

survival of the family farm.

The importance of off-farm income is also revealed in attitudinal

statements made by farm wives. The data show that of the 29 farm

families with husbands' working off the farm, 21 (72 percent of) farm

women state the family could not live on a farm without the husband's

off-farm income. Further, 21 farm women state that the husband's off-

farm income is more important than farm income. In contrast to these

data, of the 29 farm families with wives' working off the farm, only

16 (or 55 percent of) farm women think the family could not live on a

farm without her off-farm income. The husband's off-farm work is thus

viewed as more essential to farm survival than the wife's off-farm

work. In comparison to her own farm work, however, most (78 percent of)

wives with off-farm work perceive their off-farm work and income to be

more important than farm work.

Farm wives thus view their husbands' off-farm work differently

from their own off-farm work. When asked whether off-farm work inter-

ferred with farm work, 20 wives reported that husband's off-farm work

interferred; while only 6 wives reported that their own off-farm work

interferred--implying that husbands do not get enough time to do their

farm work but wives do. In agreement with this perception are data

showing that 28 of the 29 husbands with off-farm work would prefer to


work exclusively on the farm, while only 6 of the 29 wives with off-

farm work would prefer to be full time on the farm. The strenuous nature

of farm work is more appealing to farm husbands than farm wives!

The final piece of evidence for the importance of off-farm work

and income comes from questions posed to farm wives regarding their

families source of savings and investment capital. In 50 family farm

enterprises, savings come from "the farm" in 15 cases, from off-farm

incomes of husband and/or wife in 16 cases, and from both farm and non-

farm incomes in 15 cases. (Four cases reported no savings.) Money to

invest and re-invest in the farm comes from farm income in 18 of the

36 farms for which data is available, from nonfarm jobs in 6 cases, and

from both farm and nonfarm sources in 12 cases. The data thus agree

with USDA's opinion that most farm families use off-farm incomes to
live off, while farm income is plowed back into the farm .


Combinations of Farm and Off-Farm Work

How do farm families combine farming with off-farm work? The

data on both husbands' and wives' hours of farm work and off-farm work,

summarized in several tables in this section, testify not only to the

dedication and stamina of farm families but also to their ingenuity in

devising ways of combining husbands' and wives' part- or full-time

farming with husbands' and wives part- or full-time off-farm work.

The data in Tablel7 show the long hours spent working by both farm

men and women. Excluding hours spent gardening and doing housework,

which will be discussed in a later section, men in 48 families farm

34.7 hours per week on the average, while women farm 21.8 hours/week.

In addition, men work 20.2 hours/week off the farm on the average, while

women work 17.4 hours/week off the farm. The average total hours of

work performed by men is thus 54.9 hours/week; work by women is 39.2

hours/week--not including housework, child care, and gardening.

The data in Tablel8 show the number of various combinations of

farming and off farm work performed by men--above the diagonal in each

box--and separately by women, below the diagonal in each box. The rows

in the table show the number of farmers who are full-time farmers (here

labeled FTF) in that they farm greater than or equal to 40 hours per

week (hrs/wk), part-time farmers (labeled PTF) in that they farm greater

than or equal to 8 hours/week and less than 40 hours/week, and--in

the third row--those who are farming less than 8 hours or 1 day per week.

The columns in the table show the number of farmers who have full-time

off-farm work (labeled FOFW) in that they work greater than or equal

Table 17: Average hours/week of farm work and off-farm work of men and women

Baker County Gilchrist County Both Counties
(n-29)* (n=19)* (n=48)*

Men Women Men Women Men Women

Average hours/week of farm 30.8 22.84 40.7 20.2 34.7 21.8

Average hours/week of off- 20.74 17.24 19.5 17.7 20.2 17.4
farm work

Total weekly hours of work 51.57 40.08 60.2 37.9 54.9 39.2

*Two families' work hours were not included in this table, since the husband
was dead and the wife was over 80 years of age.

Table 18 :

Combinations of part- and full-time farming with part- and full-time off-farm
work for men and women


Man,' has FOFW; works has POFW; works is working
/ off the farm off the farm off the farm sub-totals
W > 40 hrs/week (8 < x < 40) hrs/wk < 8 hrs/wk

is a FTF; 1 3 14 18
farms / 1
> 40 hrs/wk / 0 3 8 11

is a PTF; / 4 23
farms / 4 / 3 23 /
(8 < x < 40) 0 0 8 24
sw A/ 0 10 / 8 / 24

is 3 0 4 7
farming /
<8 hrs/wk /8 2 3 13

/ -
20 / I/ 21 / 47 /

sub-totals / 7 2 4
/ 14 15 19 / 48


to 40 hours/week, those who work part-time (labeled POFW) in that they

work off-farm greater than or equal to 8 hours/week and less than 40

hours/week, and those who work off-farm less than 8 hours or 1 day per

week. The reader should note that, by these definitions, a full-time

farmer may also have a full-time off-farm job if he is capable of working

80 hours/week. Indeed, one man out of 48 men and 48 women is classified

as both a full-time farmer (FTF) and a full-time off-farm worker (FOFW).

The reader should also note that in this table, there are 27 and not 29

husbands with full or part-time off-farm work--as reported in the previous

section--since 5 hours/week of off-farm work is not considered here to

be enough work to classify as a part-time off-farm job. Similarly,

less than 8 hours/week of farming is not here considered as farming,

but rather maintaining a rural residence.

The data in the first row of the table show that 18 men and 11

women in the sample are full-time farmers; of these, one man also has

full-time off-farm work, while 3 men and 3 women also have part-time

off-farm work. The data displayed in the first column show that 20 men

and 14 women in the sample have full-time off-farm jobs; of these, 16

men and 6 women are also farming part-time, while 3 men and 8 women are

not spending more than 1 day/week farming. Needless to say, the 62

male and female farmers in the first row or column are the more active

people or "workaholics" in the sample.

The rest of the farmers--there are 34 of them remaining--do not

work as many long hours, since they combine part-time or little farming

with part-time or no off-farm work. Of these 34 farmers, however, 68

percent (or 23) of them are women, who--as will be seen in a later


section--do more housework, child care, and garden work in addition to

the work reported here. Of the 11 men remaining, 7 men are over 60 years

of age and therefore retired from off-farm work. The remaining four

farmers may work as much as 50 hours/week, if they combine 30 hours/week

of farm work with 20 hours/week of a part-time off-farm work.

The data in Tablel8 also show the predominance of part-time farming

in this sample: the sub-totals of the second row show that half the

sample (23 of 48 men and 24 of 48 women) farms part-time.

Even though the data in Table 18 may be informative about how men

in the sample combine their farm and nonfarm work, and separately, how

women combine their farm and nonfarm work, it fails to show which of

the men in the table belong to which of the women. It doesn't describe

how families in the sample allocate their labor resources. Table 19

was therefore constructed to list the different ways by which

wives combine their farm and off-farm work, in order to complement the

farm and off-farm job opportunities of the husband, whose work is con-

sidered by most of them to be "more important." The families' work com-

binations can be categorized into 4 major categories, which depend on

whether the wife makes her major contribution to the farm through full-

time farming (FTF), part-time farming (PTF), working off the farm full-

time (FOFW) or part-time (POFW), or being a housewife and mother.

Women are full-time farmers

Women are full-time farmers in 11 (23 percent) of the 48 families

in the sample with both spouses less that 80 years of age. In 6 of

these cases, both the husband and wife farm full-time together,


Table 19 : Number of farm families with different combinations of
husband's and wife's farm and off-farm work


1) Wife is a full-time farmer (n=ll): (n=48)
a) Both husband and wife are full-time farmers (FTF): 4
and husband has full-time off-farm work (FOFW) 1
and wife has part-time off-farm work (POFW) 1
b) Wife is FTF:
and husband has FOFW and is a part-time farmer (PTF) 3
and husband is PTF and ill 2
2) Wife is a part-time farmer (n=24):
a) Both husband and wife are PTF:
and both have FOFW 4
and husband has FOFW 1
and husband has POFW 3
and wife has FOFW and husband has POFW 1
and wife has POFW and husband has FOFW 5
b) Wife is a PTF:
and has FOFW, and husband is FTF and has POFW 1
and has POFW, and husband is FTF 3
and has POFW, and husband is FTF and has POFW 1
and husband is FTF 3
and has POFW and husband is ill 1
and husband is deceased 1
3) Wife does not farm but works off-farm (n=10):
a) Both husband and wife have FOFW: 3
and husband is PTF 1
b) Wife has FOFW:
and husband is FTF 3
and husband is FTF and has POFW 1
c) Wife has POFW and husband is retired or ill 2
4) Wife does not farm or work off-farm (n=3):
and husband is PTF 1
and husband is PTF and has FOFW 2


producing tobacco, vegetables, eggs, cattle, hay, etc. In another 5

cases, the wife substitutes for the husband and is the full-time farmer

in the family while the husband is away at a full-time off-farm job

(in 3 cases), or only a part-time farmer (in 2 cases) because of ill

health. Four of these five women manage chicken houses. Some supervise

cattle and hogs, and bale hay. One woman enjoys tractor work and has

learned to fix them herself. On the average, they work 56 hours/week

on the farm. They all love farming.

Women Are Part-Time Farmers

Half (24) of the women in the sample are part-time farmers. In

14 of these cases, both husband and wife are part-time farmers; and

in addition, one or both of them manages to hold a full- or part-time

job off the farm. Four of these couples have both husband and wife

working at full-time nonfarm jobs. In 3 families, the husband has

additional part-time work, off the farm; while in 5 families, the husband

has additional full-time work and the wife has part-time work off the

farm. In 10 more cases, the wife's part-time farming either supple-

ments the husband's full-time farmwork (in 8 cases) or substitutes for

his farm work (in 2 cases) because he is ill. In 6 of these families,

the wife also manages a part- or full-time job off the farm, in addition

to farming part-time.

Women Contribute Off-Farm Income

Ten more wives do not farm but do contribute off-farm income to the

family and farm. In 4 of these cases, both husband and wife work off

the farm full-time. In 3 of the 4 cases, neither husband norwife farm


enough to be considered part-time farmers. One may thus consider these

couples to be maintaining a rural residence. In another 4 cases, the

wife brings in the off-farm income while the husband farms full-time.

Women Are Housewives and Mothers

Only three (6 percent) of the 48 women in the sample neither farm

nor work off the farm part- or full-time. Two of the three women are

younger than 60 years of age, have three teenagers apiece, and spend

much of their time gardening, supervising their children's farm work

and school activities, and keeping house.

In conclusion, farm women make very different but essential contri-

butions of labor to the family farm. Sometimes their work is alongside

their husbands, performing a "joint operation" like baling hay or

producing a "joint commodity" like tobacco. Sometimes the wife substi-

tutes for the husband on the farm, while he is off the farm bringing

in a more stable income. Other times, the wife is bringing in the off-

farm income while the husband is farming. At all times, the farm wife's

work complements and supplements her husband's work.

Some farm wives' contributions "stick out", as witnessed by photos

and slides of very feminine women on tractors. The data presented

here, however, show that the majority (54 percent) of farm women con-

tribute to the farm in a less dramatic but more demanding way, by both

farming part-time and working off the farm, part- or full-time. In

this sample, only a minority (23 percent) of women are "real" full-

time farmers. On the other extreme, only a minority (23 percent) of

farm women neither farm full-time nor have an off-farm job. How do


farm wives decide what their particular contribution to the family farm

(or farm family) will be?


Total Hours of Work Including
Housework and Garden Work

Besides farming and working off the farm, farm women in all the

families sampled are responsible for domestic tasks including housecleaning

and child care. Only three women in the sample have outside help to do the

housework. Care of the home and children is a labor-intensive activity,

as data on the average number of hours per week spent on housework show in

the third row of table 20. On average, women spend 26.5 hours/week taking

care of the home and children. When this work is added to their 21.8 average

hours of farm work (which doesn't include gardening) and their 17.4 average

hours of off-farm work, farm women work an average of 65.72 hours per week,


Although domestic tasks are a part of every farm household and in all

cases the responsibility of women, nonetheless, both husbands and children

do perform certain tasks. While children are assigned specific chores to do

around the house, husbands do certain household-related work either as a

matter of habit, or because they like doing it. In a few cases where the

wife works off the farm, men do what can be described as traditional women's

work: setting and cleaning the table after meals, cooking meals, doing the

-laundry, and'bitching in." However, most of the women report that housework

*done by husbands consists of traditional male tasks: housebuilding and outside

work (repair work, yard work, and maintenance of the pool in one case).

Moreover, the average number of housework hours worked by men in both

counties is 1.9 hours per week. When this type of work is added to their

total work, men work, on average, 56.8 hours per week year-round, as

compared to the 65.7 hours per week of the women.

Table 20: Average hours/week of farm work, off-farm work, housework and garden work of men and women.

Baker County Gilchrist County Both Counties
(n=29)* (n=19)* (n=48)*

Men Women Men Women Men Women

Average hours/week of farmwork 30.8 22.84 40.7 20.2 34.7 21.8
Average hours/week of off-farmwork 20.74 17.24 19.5 17.7 20.2 17.4

Sub-total: 51.57 40.08 60.2 37.9 54.9 39.2
Average hours/week of housework 0.55 25.56 4.0 28.0 1.9 26.52 1
Year-Round total: 52.12 65.64 64.20 65.9 56.8 65.72

Average hours/week of spring-
summer garden work* 5.28 14.19 4.76 9.55 5.1 12.35
Garden-season total 57.40 79.83 68.96 75.45 61.9 78.07

*applies only in the 8 to 10 weeks of the spring-summer gardening season.


When hours spent gardening during the spring-summer garden season

are added to these year-round weekly hours of work, the gap between women's

hours and men's hours increases still further. As shown in the last row

of table 20, women work an average of 78 hours per week during the 8 to 10

week period of the spring-summer garden, whereas men work an average of 62

hours per week during the same period.

Children's work

Children are both an asset on the farm and a reason for farming, as

will be shown in chapter IV. Data from the 35 families with an average 3.5

children living at home show that the farm child works an average 15 hours

per week farming, working off the farm, and doing housework. During the

garden season, some farm children work an additional 4.4 hours per week.

Data shown in table 21 show the number of childrenworking in each

type of work: farm work, off-farm work, housework, and garden work. In the

35 families with children living at home, 30 families have children over 10

years old living at home. In these families, 45 children do an average

of 21.8 hours per week of farm work. Their help is valued highly. One

family is even planning on cutting back production because "help is leaving

home." In return for the work children do on the farm, families use a

variety of incentives depending upon the type of farm operation they have.

One woman whose son does most of the work of raising hogs gives him a certain

percentage of the money from sales which he keeps in his own account. Her

eleven year old son told us that he had made over $1100 in ten months.

Another woman told us that hernineteenyear old son is responsible for

clearing ten acres of timber which they plan on converting to coastal grass.

The money from the sale of timber is to be his.


Table 21: Average hours per week of
and garden work performed
Gilchrist Counties

farm work, off-farm
by children in both

work, housework,
Baker and

In Average number
Number of number of hours/week
children of worked per
Type of work working* families child

Farm work 45 30 21.8

Off-farm work 21 21 23.83

Housework 29 16 11.9

A weighted average 122* 48 15.0
of all work

Garden work** 38 24 4.4
(44.11 hours/garden)

*Out of a total of 122
at home.

**Performed only during
10 weeks per year.

children in the families sampled who are living

the spring summer gardening season, i.e., 8 to


A total of 21 children in 21 families work off the farm an average

23.8 hours/week. Some of these children work only during the summer months

harvesting vegetables, tobacco, watermelons, and hay. Others work at their

parents' seed and feed store. One woman said that her son purchases school

clothes out of the money he makes. Fourteen children who are older live

with their family and have fulltime off-farm jobs as hospital aides, cooks,

and airport mechanics.

In addition, women reported that each child of 29 children in 16 families

did 11.9 hours per week of housework on average, and each child of 38 children

in 24 families did 4.4 hours per week of garden work, on average. In order

to include all kinds of children's work in an estimate of average hours per

week worked per child, a weighted average of all work performed per child

was calculated. Using 122 as the total number of children in 48 families

(with both spouses less than 80 years of age), we conclude that the farm

child works an average of 15 hours per week farming, working off the farm,

and doing housework.

Table 22 shows the relative importance of children' work to the family

- relative to work performed by men and women in the 48 families with both

spouses less than 80 years of age. Adding the work contributions of each

child in the family, data in table 22 show that together, all the children

in a farm family farm, on average, 20.43 hours per week, or almost as much

as their mother does. When hours of off-farm work and housework are added

to farm work, the children in a farm family work 38 hours per week year-round.


Table 22: Average hours per week of farm work, off-farm work, housework,
and garden work performed by men, women, and children in both
Baker and Gilchrist Counties (n=48)

Children hours
Men Women per family

Average hours of farm work/week 34.7 21.8 20.43

Average hours of off-farm work/week 20.2 17.4 10.42

Average hours of housework/week 1.9 26.52 7.16

Subtotal 56.80 65.72 38.02

Average hours/week of garden work* 5.08 12.35 6.6

Total 61.88 78.07 44.61

*Performed only during gardening season, i.e., 8-10 weeks of the year.


Who Makes the Decisions in the Farm Family?

How much power and personal autonomy do farm wives have? Some social

scientists assert that one test of the wife's power and influence in the

family and on the farm is whether she makes some of the important

decisions herself, rather than let her husband make all the decisions.

This question was therefore explored by asking farm women to describe

some of the major farm decisions made in the family, and then explain

who made them. The decisions they described relate to the farm as a

whole as well as crops and livestock production, equipment purchase and

repairs, and farm finances.

In half of the families, farm related decisions are made solely by

husbands. In an additional 13 cases, men make the final decisions, but

after consultation with their wives; and in 5 more cases, women report

these decisions are jointly made after mutual consultation and discus-

sion. In only 5 cases do wives make the farm decisions themselves, and

only one woman reports making farm-related decisions after consulting

with husband.

Clearly, men are firmly in charge in matters relating to the farm

enterprise. The few exceptions in which women decide on farm matters

happen either because a husband is ill, or away at an off-farm job for

extended periods, or deceased. One older farm wife, reflecting on the

farm decisions her husband made, regretted having let him make all the

farm decisions because, as she put it, "I had a lot to learn when he

passed away."

The few women who are the decision makers on farm matters recounted


Table 23: Farm family decision making

4g fi4
-M 0 I rU

a l O ( In. 4 Total
.r b) r _ _

1. Farm related

2. Garden related

3. Decisions over

4. Childcare and

5. Any type of

6. Decisions con-
cerning off-
farm work


Percent of all













28 46 56 39 1

15% 25% 31% 21%







.4 183

8% 100%


for us some of their experiences in trying to negotiate in a man's world.

One woman said that when her husband fell ill she "had to carry the whole

load." Her involvement in the man's world of cattle marketing, for

instance, is captured in the following commentary: "I'd just sit and

have a casual conversation with them, and more or less feel them out about

their attitudes about different things. There was always that barrier.

They never minded accepting my check but didn't like it at all; and they

didn't fail to let me know it--in some subtle way--that they resented me

being the head of the household. I was more meticulous than my husband

about a lot of things, in tending to the cow business. I'm a why person.

When I transacted business, I had to deal with the men. I never met

any woman who had to be pushed to the front like I was. I learned to

get along with men because it was a man's world."

Even though a few farm women do cross the barrier into the man's

world successfully, the move is usually a reluctant one, made out of

necessity. Othertimes, the women do not admit even to themselves that

they can operate on an equal footing with their husbands. For example,

one woman stated quite proudly: "I don't really like farming. But I

go along with whatever he wants to do. I've been very submissive to my

husband." Yet, in land purchases, it is she who is the negotiator.

During our interview with her, the phone rang: her husband was consider-

ing buying more land. After the phone call, she reluctantly admitted

that her husband sends her to tend to things. "Lots of time it is better

for me to go ...to look at the land... then for him to go." She added,

"he never makes a move without asking me."

Unexpectedly, farm wives volunteered information on other family


decisions in which they have more say. The decisions concern gardening,

finances, childcare, and off-farm work. As Table 23 shows, of 40 gardening

decisions, women make the decisions in 16 cases. Four women make the

final decisions on the garden after consulting with husbands. Joint

decisions concerning the garden are made by 10 couples. Only 4 men

made gardening decisions on their own; while an additional 6 men are

responsible for gardening decisions after prior consultation with their


The traditional roles of housewife and mother give 12 women the

prerogative of making the decisions relating to children and household

matters. In 19 families, however, these decisions are made jointly and

in 5 cases husbands decide after consulting with their wives. In 3

families, wives decide after consulting with their husbands.

Decisions over finances and major expenditures are either made

jointly in 16 families or are made by the husband after consulting with

his wife in 6 families. Only in 4 cases are finances solely the wife's

decision. Two women consult their husbands, but make final decisions

about finances.

Some other decisions not as frequently mentioned are those con-

cerning the wife's off-farm work. Six of these are made by the women

themselves; 3 are made in consultation, with the wife having the final

say. One family makes these decisions jointly. In only one family

has the husband the final word, even on the wife's choice of work.

In summary, the totals of the columns in Table 23 show that joint

decision making, involving both husband and wife, is more common in

the farm family than the "submissive wife" image some farm wives would


lead us to suspect, since more (31 percent) of the decisions are made

jointly. After joint decision making, the wife's decisions account for

25 percent of the decision processes discussed; while the husband's

having the final say after consultation with his wife is next with 21

percent of all decisions. Only 15 percent of all the decisions are made

solely by the husband; while only 8% of them are made by the wife after

consultation with the husband.


III Goals Motivating Farm Women

What do farm women hope to get out of farming? Numerous social scien-

tists have devised "behavioral assumptions" which assume a variety of goals

held by farmers. According to them, farmers maximize family profit and in-

come, consumption, satisfaction, and well being. They try to reach ac-

ceptable thresholds of physical safety and financial security, status and

prestige in their community, and personal achievement. Rarely, however,

have farm women been asked to describe their own goals and aspirations,

and what they themselves hope to achieve from farming. In this study,

therefore, the women were asked to describe what drives them to work such

long hours both on and off the farm. Their replies, presented in detail

in the following two sections, reveal four major motivations:

1. to generate income from both farm and off farm work. Each type

of income is necessary to support the family's standard of living.

2. to raise children in a healthy environment and with proper values

and morals.

3. to enjoy a rural lifestyle or way of life.

4. to maintain the family farm and keep it going.

Goal statements also reveal certain dominant cultural themes, values

and beliefs which farm women share. These give us information on what is

considered desirable and valuable, and will be discussed along with a

description of the goals motivating women's farm and off farm work.


Farm goals

Since 11 women in the sample are full-time farmers and 24 more women

farm part-time, farm women were asked what they hoped to achieve from

farming. Their statements, summarized in table 24 reveal six types of

goals motivating their efforts on the farm. Generating an income from

farming is the primary goal ( in 29 responses); followed by children-

centered goals ( in 26 responses). The goals concerning children clearly

group into goals which focus on helping children economically ( in 16 re-

sponses), and goals which show a concern for raising children properly (in

10 responses). A third frequently mentioned goal revolves around main-

taining a rural residence ( in 18 responses). Personal autonomy is

another valued goal ( in 15 responses). For some women, the farm is a

goal in itself, as revealed by 13 responses. Other women farm for self-

sufficiency in food production (in 3 cases).

In the following description of each goal type, the reader should note

that some women state their goals as if they are halfway toward achieving

them. Others state them as hopes and aspirations; and still others refer

to their goals as if they have been achieved.

Generating an income from farming is mentioned as a goal by more than

half the women. Earning enough money so they don't have to borrow or go

into debt is a frequently expressed goal. As one woman sums it up, "Our

goal is to get everything paid for, land and equipment, so we can have

an income coming in." To get out of debt, farm families try to reinvest

farm earnings back in to the farm, e.g., "to build up the cow herd, to

have enough cows to cover the expense of keeping them." The goal of earn-

ing money from farming is not always achieved, however. One woman sadly

reflected, "I enjoyed farming till we couldn't make a profit from it."


Table 24: Farm goals

Generation of income

Children centered goals

a. helping children 16

b. raising children 10

Rural residence/lifestyle

Personal autonomy

The farm is a goal in itself

Subsistence/self sufficiency

No. of responses*







*The number of women reporting farm goals does not necessarily sum to the
sample size because some women reported more than one goal.









Children centered goals are expressed by 'slightly over half the sample

of the farm wives (26 cases). The goals of 16 women have to do with helping

older children. Some women have saved money from their farm enterprise to

invest in children' college education. One woman said, "We have put what

we had into our children." Others are accumulating land and equipment for

their children, helping them realize their own goals by giving them land to

farm, encouraging children and advising them on their farm operation, and

planting timber for their children' future use. Only one woman said that

she did not want her sons to have to farm, but wanted them to have other

job opportunities.

The goals of 10 women center around "raising children right": on a

farm, with appropriate values, and in a healthy environment where the mores

and values of neighbors are known and to some extent, shared. One woman

mentioned that raising children with grandparents nearby gives kids a better

sense of responsibility.

Maintaining a rural residence is another frequently mentioned goal (in

18 instances). The desire to "stay where they are...," to live in the

county, and enjoyifarm life is a major goal of some women. Work on the

farm is considered recreation by one woman. Another views farming to be

a healthy profession. One woman says that working on a farm gives her the

satisfaction and enjoyment that she can't get doing other things.

Personal autonomy on the farm is another goal motivating farm wives

in 15 cases. This goal is expressed in terms such as "being independent,"

"working for self," wanting to buy one's own equipment and getting out

of doing custom work for others. Moreover, farming one's own land and

operating with one's own capital are frequently expressed goals. For some

women, the desire is to be self sufficient in old age.


Farming is a goal in itself for 13 women. As one woman put it, "the

goal of farming was building a farm; everything else was secondary."

Choosing an appropriate enterprise mix iq a means to achieving this goal.

One woman visualizes a time in the not so distant future when she would

have the chicken farm built to the point that her husband can quit his off-

farm job. Another woman hopes to have the farm built up and paid for, so

they can sit back and enjoy themselves. The goal of another is "to put

what we have worked for back into the farm and home." One woman simply

said, "if I didn't farm, I'd be lost."

Being self-sufficient in food and eating food that one's own farm can

provide is a highly-valued goal held by some women (3 cases). For them,

"having a large enough garden for the whole family; having vegetables all

year round, and growing your own are good reasons to farm.

Gardening goals

Subsistence production, or raising and "putting up" one's own fodd is

an important part of farm family life and survival. No matter what the

size of farm or type of enterprise mix, 96 percent of farm families in

the Baker and Gilchrist samples put up some food; and 84 percent raise or

purchase beef to put up in the freezer.

Because of the prevalence of gardening, farm wives were asked to iden-

tify some of their reasons for having a garden. As seen in table 25 the

most frequently mentioned goal, receiving 40 (and 34 percent of the) re-

sponses, is quality:garden vegetables are fresher, more nutritious, and

taste better. Some women stated that even their children are able to tell

the difference between store bought vegetables and the home grown ones.

Others stated that the garden allows.them to "know what we a.re eating."

One farm wife put it more graphically: "store bought food is raised so


Table 25: Reasons for gardening

No. of responses* Percent

1. The quality of garden vegetables is

2. Garden vegetables are cheaper and more

3. It is convenient to have a good supply
of food stored.

4. Gardening is part of living on a farm









*The number of women reporting garden goals does not sum to the sample size
as some women reported more than one goal.


fast there is no season or taste to it."

Another reason for having a garden, receiving 38 responses, is economy:

raising one's own vegetables is more economical than purchasing them. Sev-

eral women mentioned that it has been over 20 years since they bought

canned vegetables. One farm wife simply said, "raising our own vegetables

keeps us out of the grocery store."

The convenience of stored food which is instantly available when

needed, is also mentioned as a reason for having a garden (in 23 responses).

Some women noted thatithe instant availability of a good assortment of stored

food allowed them to "fix a meal fast," cook for family members who happen

to drop in, and supply good food to friends and fellow church goers who

suddenly experience tragedy. Finally, 17 farm women said they gardened

because "the garden is part of living on a farm," and they "enjoy all

phases of garden work." For some, having a garden is "part of our life."

Other women "can't wait to start the garden each year;" and to still

others, it "feels like we have accomplished something."

In summary one can see a common theme in the farming and gardening goals

of farm wives: the maintenance of the farm and the family is all important.

Indeed, all their aspirations are focused on the well-being and survival of the

farm family.

Off farm work is another important activity which also contributes to

farm family survival. The goals which farm wives seek to achieve by work-

ing off the farm are discussed next.


Goals motivating.
women's off-farm work

Since 74 percent of the farm families stated that they have some

off-farm income and 58 percent of the farm wives hold jobs at the present

time, farm women were asked why they held off-farm jobs. Their replies,

summarized in table26, reveal different motives behind off-farm work.

One goal motivating off-farm work most frequently mentioned by the

women is that it helps them maintain a viable life style and supplements

farm income (20 responses). Some women hope to achieve the goal of a pro-

fessional career (9 responses). Eight women state that their goal from

off-farm work is to subsidize the farm. Social contacts which off-farm

jobs provide are valued by some (7 responses). Fulfilling children's

needs by working off-farm are mentioned by a few (3 responses); and ser-

vice to the community by working off the farm is the goal of two women.

The most predominant motive, expressed by farm women in 20 cases is

that off-farm work aids them in achieving and maintaining a lifestyle and

.standard of living that farm income alone could not support. Off-farm

work pays for luxuries the family couldn't otherwise afford, e.g., a vaca-

tion and improvements in the house. It also provides .numerous fringe

benefits which farm work alone cannot provide, such as health insurance.

One woman frankly admitted: "with the standards we have, we have to

have off-farm work, to make more money and support the life style we are

accustomed to."

However, women stress that while off-farm work is "necessary,"

"stable" and "financially more important," it is "not as rewarding"

as farm work nor "their first choice." It does, however, pay the bills,

and help "make ends meet."


Table26 : Goals motivating off-farm work

Purpose of off-farm work is to:

1. Supplement farm income and support a life

2. Fulfill career goals

3. Subsidize the farm

4. Maintain social contacts

5. Provide for children's needs

6. Assist in community service

No. of'responses* Percent













*The number of women reporting goals motivating off-farm work do not neces-
sarily sum to the sample size because first, not all farm women in the sample
have off farm income, and second, those who did often reported more than one


Surprisingly, women currently working at off-farm jobs and those

who are full time farm wives also expressed a desire to go back to school

to satisfy their own career goals in 9 cases. Some educational and career

goals which have been deferred in pursuit of marriage, children and farm

work are: to be a lawyer, writer, teacher, musician and nurse. One woman

is saving money from her job so that she will not need to borrow to go to


Off-farm work helps subsidize the farm in 8 cases. Sometimes it is

used to pay for farm equipment and develop the farm. In all cases, off-

farm work is perceived as a temporary means to achieve the couple's real

goal to farm full time--together. As one woman said, "What I've worked

for has all gone back into the farm and home." Another woman was more


Off-farm work is important, but our eyes must be on the same
goal. If that is farming and building a farm, then every-
thing else is secondary. Women cannot allow off-farm jobs to
pull them from the farm, making it a half venture. Farming
cannot be a his and her venture.

The social contacts provided by off-farm work was the reason seven

farm wives worked off the farm. One woman said she enjoyed her co-work-

ers. Another said off-farm work enabled her to get away from the farm!

Being with other people, having co-workers to relate to, and meeting new

people were aspects of off-farm work"that farm wives look forward to.

For 3 women, off farm work provided for their children' needs and

luxuries that the family couldn't otherwise afford. As one farm wife

sees it: "women work for their children, to provide them with things and

a good life."

For two women, off-farm work provides them with the opportunity of

service to their community. Their jobs are such that they are in fre-

quent contacts with other farm families and assist them with some of

their needs.


The primary reason for women to seek off-farm work however, appears

to be to keep the farm and the family going economically. Farm income alone

cannot provide for all the perceived needs of farm women. The need to seek

other income-earning opportunities clearly means that farmers face problems

making a living on farm income alone. To explore this question further, we

turn to the next section on perceived problems, needs, and concerns of farm



IV Can Family Farmers Make a Living Farming?

The question heading this chapter is so important to Florida family

farms that we asked farm women four questions related to this theme. Their

answers are presented in the following two sections. The first section

describes the farming problems, needs, and concerns of farm wives. What are

their main problems and concerns? In their opinion, why can't families make

a living farming? The second section is more positive in that it spells out,

via farm wives' statements, how family farmers -- and especially young farmers --

can make a living farming. To conclude this report, we have quoted the


Why farmers can't make a living:
their problems, needs, and concerns

Farm women were asked to respond to two questions. First, "What are

some of your major problems, needs and concerns on the farm?" Second,

"People say that one can't make a living on the farm. What do you think?"

Several responses were elicited and some women gave more than one answer to

each question. The first question received 78 responses, the second received

61 responses, to total 139 responses as seen in table 27. Since there are

recurring themes in the types of responses, they have been combined in the


The problem which heads the list of concerns, with 44 responses, is

high input costs, high interest rates, inflation and taxes. This is followed

by concern over an uncertain market and prices for crops, with 14 responses;

farm size as a limiting factor is also of concern in 13 responses. Some

women mention that without some assistance, the future of small family farms

is in jeopardy (12 responses).


IV Can Family Farmers Make a Living Farming?

The question heading this chapter is so important to Florida family

farms that we asked farm women four questions related to this theme. Their

answers are presented in the following two sections. The first section

describes the farming problems, needs, and concerns of farm wives. What are

their main problems and concerns? In their opinion, why can't families make

a living farming? The second section is more positive in that it spells out,

via farm wives' statements, how family farmers -- and especially young farmers --

can make a living farming. To conclude this report, we have quoted the


Why farmers can't make a living:
their problems, needs, and concerns

Farm women were asked to respond to two questions. First, "What are

some of your major problems, needs and concerns on the farm?" Second,

"People say that one can't make a living on the farm. What do you think?"

Several responses were elicited and some women gave more than one answer to

each question. The first question received 78 responses, the second received

61 responses, to total 139 responses as seen in table 27. Since there are

recurring themes in the types of responses, they have been combined in the


The problem which heads the list of concerns, with 44 responses, is

high input costs, high interest rates, inflation and taxes. This is followed

by concern over an uncertain market and prices for crops, with 14 responses;

farm size as a limiting factor is also of concern in 13 responses. Some

women mention that without some assistance, the future of small family farms

is in jeopardy (12 responses).


Table 27 : Why farmers can't make a living farming: their problems, needs
and concerns.

1. Inflation, high cost of.inputs, credit
and taxes

2. The market for crops and prices received

3. Two small land size

4. The future of the small farm and need for
government help

5. Scarcity of time and labor

6. Not producing high-enough yields

7. "We survive, but can't get ahead"

8. The need for off-farm income

9. Health, safety, retirement concerns

10. Risks involved in farming

11. The need to diversify

12. Energy self sufficiency

13. "We can't hunt any more"

14. "The government shouldn't subsidize farms"

No. of responses* Percent

44 32





















*The number of women respondents does not sum to the sample size-as some
women gave more than one response.


The need for more time and an available labor supply is of priority for

some (11 responses); while producing enough is considered to be a problem

by others (10 responses). Nine women state that it is possible to survive

but not get ahead by farming alone, and an equalnumber mention the need

for off-farm income to survive on the farm. Six women are concerned over

health and safety; while five women mention some of the risks involved

in farming. The need for a diversified operation especially if the farm

is small is mentioned by 3 women. Concern over energy self-sufficiency,

inability to hunt and government's role in farming were mentioned by one

respondent each.

The recurring problem which tops the list (with 44 responses) is

concern over increasing cost of inputs, availability of credit, and in-

flation. The costs of growing crops, paying for fuel and fertilizer,

making equipment payments, and keeping up with repairs are the major

concerns of farm women, since farmers are caught in a bind between high

interest rates and high production costs. Two women voiced concern

over the difficulty in getting loans from FmHA (Farmers Home Administration)

for chicken houses. One literally undertook a one-woman sit-in at the local

office after months of regular, frequent and unsuccessful visits. For

two women, increasing property taxes are also a concern. One woman said

that even though the size of the exemption to the federal estate tax has

been raised, "inflation has made a mockery out of that." Another major

concern expressed by farm women was the cost of living. According to one

woman, they live about the same now as they did five to ten years ago,

because their salaries are not keeping up with the cost of living in

spite of raises. And another said: "even though we raise so much of our

own food, still I spend $100 to $300 every two weeks at the grocery store.

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