Beth Robinette, a rancher and leader in the local food and regional food movement in Spokane, Washington.
Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Beth Robinette, a rancher and leader in the local food and regional food movement in Spokane, Washington. She runs her family’s fourth-generation grass fed beef operation the Lazy R Ranch, and is one of the co-founders of LINC Foods, a worker and farmer owned cooperative food hub based in Spokane. She studied sustainable agriculture and business and marketing at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, and earned her MBA in Sustainable Systems at Pinchot University with an emphasis on Local Living Economies and Sustainable Food and Agriculture.
How did you first become interested in the local and regional food movement?
Local food was really the norm in my household growing up. We raised a lot of our own food, or we would trade beef for things we didn’t raise ourselves. My grandpa was a prolific gardener and I can vividly remember the joy of eating a perfectly ripe tomato, warm from the sun, out of his garden. My dad had a part-time job working for a sustainable agriculture non-profit called the Washington State Food and Farming Network when I was in middle school and high school. He was the Eastern Washington coordinator and his job put him in contact with many movers and shakers in the local/regional food movement, which was really my first exposure to the idea. It wasn’t until I left for college, however, that I began to realize how privileged I had been to grow up on a ranch, and that most of my fellow students had a totally different relationship to food and agriculture than I did. I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for a class my freshman year, and I was pretty much hooked on local food from then on. Read more »
(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms.
At the Agricultural Marketing Service and across USDA, we often talk about the fact that the face of American agriculture is changing. The ranks of our farmers, especially young and beginning farmers, include a growing number of women, people of color, veterans or folks in their second careers. So-called “traditional” agriculture defies the term as it pursues new strategies, new products, and new markets. Across the country, agriculture is diversifying and evolving to meet changing consumer demands.
I saw the new face of agriculture last week during travels to Illinois and Indiana. My first stop was a roundtable on Women in Agriculture held at FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois, about 15 miles from Chicago. Twenty or so women gathered to talk about their farming goals and to hear about how USDA could support them. This topic is close to my heart – I’m a New Hampshire native, a state with the second highest percentage of women farmers in the country. The women around the table with me represented the new face of ag, but so too did the setting – an indoor, vertical farm that produces basil and microgreens in a facility designed to reduce energy costs and shrink the carbon footprint of growing food. FarmedHere is managed by Megan Klein, an attorney by training who found her calling in urban agriculture and became part of this “new face.” Read more »
USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour.
The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture – women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need.
That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed. Read more »
The 2012 Census of Agriculture found that 14 percent of the nation’s farms are run by a woman.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
The 2017 Census of Agriculture is still two years away but, at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we work hard to continually improve the data we collect. The agriculture census conducted every five years is the one time we collect demographic information on today’s farmers and ranchers.
The 2012 Census found that 14 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms are run by a woman, and women make up 30 percent of all farmers when up to three operators per farm are included. Similarly, 25 percent of farmers were beginning farmers (ten years or less on their current farm) in 2012. But, as we get ready for the next census, we want to make sure that our data fully capture the role of women farmers and beginning farmers in agriculture today. Read more »
At age 87, Marjorie Fleming still runs her 1,400-acre farm, raising quality Black Angus bulls. Fleming secured an FSA microloan to purchase equipment to help her operation run more efficiently.
Marjorie Fleming has been cattle ranching since she was a teenager. Now, at age 87, she has no plans of quitting anytime soon.
“I haven’t thought about stopping,” said Fleming. “I like ranch life, I like being outside and I can get out on my four-wheeler and get around most places and do what I used to do with a horse.”
Growing up in San Andres, N.M., Fleming and her brother used horses to round up goats and cattle on the family ranch. Both parents were disabled — her father with a hip injury and her mother with polio — leaving Fleming and her brother to do the heavy lifting and chores. Read more »
Shelly Ziesch, in tractor, loves being able to work side-by-side with her husband and kids on their family ranch.
NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American.
Farming and ranching in central North Dakota is a family affair for the Zieschs. Shelly and Robin Ziesch have three daughters who are all involved in agriculture, from ranching on their own to agriculture education to helping out on the family farm. These soon-to-be grandparents take great pride in their oldest daughter, Bailie, a nurse who also ranches with her husband Russell just south of Mandan, ND. Their middle daughter, Cassidy, attends North Dakota State University and is studying to be an agriculture teacher. She comes home often (whenever there isn’t a home football game) to help out. Their youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior in high school and between her many sports and activities helps out on the ranch.
Both Shelly (SZ) and Morgan (MZ) share their insights into what it means to be a woman in agriculture and how each of them thinks about the future of their family operation. Read more »