“Tractorettes” or Partners? Farmers' Views on Women in Kansas Farming Households


  • This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Award No. EPS-0903806 and matching support from the state of Kansas through the Kansas Board of Regents. All analysis and conclusions are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies or any of the other researchers on the Kansas NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers' Land Use Decisions (KS NSF EPSCoR BACC: FLUD). I thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and László J. Kulcsár for his feedback on multiple drafts of this article.


In the United States, for various reasons, fewer farm families rely solely on their farming operations for their livelihoods. As the structure of agriculture changes and farm families adjust their livelihood strategies, do the discourses around gender relations in households also change? This article analyzes the portrayal of women's roles in farming households by drawing on interviews with Kansas field crop farmers, primarily regarding their land-use decisions, but also inquiring about their farms and communities. The article addresses the following question: How do farmers' discourses compare to Brandth's (2002a) categorizations of three dominant discourses in the literature on gender in European family farming—the discourse of the family farm, the discourse of masculinization, and the discourse of detraditionalization and diversity? While Brandth finds the discourse of the family farm prevalent in the literature, overall, the discourse apparent from 30 farmer interviews is more characteristic of detraditionalization and diversity. Although men are primarily the principal operators in farming, overall, women were not portrayed simply as helpers. Rather, their roles are depicted as diverse and important to farm operations.