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Special Report: Valley's Female Farmers

It’s a billion dollar Valley industry dominated by men. But times are changing, and women are taking the lead.
It’s a billion dollar Valley industry dominated by men. But times are changing, and women are taking the lead. The future of ag is here and women are making their mark in the Valley’s leading industry.

From the sugar plums on her tree's to her approach in the field, there is a lot about Karri Hammerstrom that's different. For one, she and her husband grow things you don't see every day, targeting niche markets they believe are the future. But among those differences one thing is quickly becoming down right ordinary: "I do see more women becoming involved, I think it has become more acceptable. I think there is a lot of satisfaction in owning your own business. And I think that there is something very wholesome about in my perspective about agriculture," said Hammerstrom.

According to the latest census data, she is not alone. The number of women farm operators in the United States has increased by nearly 20% in just the past ten years and its no coincidence that farming itself has begun to change. "It is much different then it previously has been seen in the past where the farmers all kind of look the same I think you are seeing a lot more diversity in agriculture," said Hammerstrom.

Farmer Ray Jacobsen said, "Things have changed so much in the last 20 years with women being involved in agriculture, In the actual farming part."

Jacobsen has been farming in the central valley for his entire life, and for most of that time his wife, Debbie, has been by his side... as much a partner in business as in life. "There is not a template for what a farmer should look like and I think it is just about across the United States, across the world, I just think it is about what works," said Debbie Jacobsen.

And for the Jacobsen's, what is working on their 600 acre farm near Easton is a partnership that allows Ray and Debbie to get the most out of their skills. "My part in agriculture has been the advocate. I am truly the person who likes to go out and whether it is talking to school children or going to Washington DC, Sacramento or somewhere in Fresno County it is about relating to that consumer," said Debbie Jacobsen.

Each year in Fresno County, women produce more than $150 million in agricultural products. The latest census data shows women are also the principal operators of more than 700 farms, owning in excess of 100,000 acres of farm land in Fresno County. "Providing food for not only our generation but the next generation as a domestic food supplier is very important so to be a part of that is very attractive for a lot of women," said Karri Hammerstrom. 

As state president of California women for agriculture, Hammerstrom spends a lot of her time helping other women lay the ground work for a future in ag. A future she sees getting brighter every day.

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