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Growing Opportunities for Women in Agriculture

Posted by MD Sharman, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
Mar 14, 2024
Two adults with children sitting in front of a mural

The National Women in Agriculture Association (NWIAA) headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla. has operated for 16 years, grown to 60 chapters, and has big goals to help underserved communities succeed in agriculture.

However, you may have never heard of them.

NWIAA Director Dr. Tammy Gray-Steele wants to change that and pave a new path for the next generation of female farmers and agriculturists. She aims to have women, specifically minority women, take advantage of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that can help eradicate food deserts, provide sustainable job opportunities, and help them thrive.

Gray-Steele is ingrained in the world of agriculture and has secured several USDA 2501 program grants, which helps underserved and veteran farmers participate in USDA programs equitably. These grants have enabled NWIAA to help students apply for scholarship funding through programs like the USDA 1890 National Scholars Program, guide veteran women in launching agricultural businesses, educate student athletes about farm-related careers, host programs for teens and national conferences, and more.

Dr. Gray-Steele’s philosophy in growing the organization and increasing opportunities for women in agriculture is much like growing a crop. “Get the right seeds planted with the right nourishment so they can flourish,” she noted.

2501 grants have helped develop NWIAA programs like Hip Hop Producers, Athletes in Ag, the Charles Atkins Senior Citizen Program, and the JADE program. Some of NWIAA’s innovative programming starts even before birth. For example, the Sustainable Science Academy No. 1 is the first agricultural childcare center in the United States. The center is now developing a Micro School/Agriculture Charter School and Maternity Essence Center that helps pregnant women harvest food and nurture their children. From birth to toddlerhood, children have their own raised soil beds in which they grow food that they eventually eat.

Gray-Steele’s view on women in agriculture is as future-focused as it is factual. “As women, we create, develop, and establish new farmers in America – literally and figuratively,” she said. “We want a seat at the table.”

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives