Montana- In 2017, the Census of Agriculture reported that 36% of producers in the United States were women. Two years later, the Agribusiness HR Review showed that more than sixty percent of the companies surveyed showed a significant increase in women in the workforce with signs of continued growth.
Other types of businesses such as apiaries, restaurants and other local shops are essential in bringing healthy and nutritious food to Montana communities.
Virginia Cross’s company “Sticky” works with the Sunshine Apiaries in Columbus, MT to create a sugar-free and reusable spread. The idea came from trying to do something to satisfy my husband’s sweet tooth, as well as reduce the sugar that other sweets provide.
“I enjoy the giving side of things to people. I’m a mother and a grandmother, and yes, I love all aspects of taking care of people and giving them something that benefits them.”
Virginia produce is sold at farmers markets and restaurants in Billings and at the famous Prerogative Kitchen in Red Lodge.
Gena Burghoff, who runs Prerogative Kitchen, partners with farms and ranches around the state to keep her menu full of fresh produce from Montana-raised farms and meats.
Gena shared why she and her restaurant are so important, “I think it’s strange to get carrots from China, yes, they may come now, but they should. So, I think but the taste, the nutrients. , the most important thing is that our food is becoming more complicated these days. There are so many health problems and we don’t know why people have so many unknown diseases and I think it is very important to know where your food comes from. your food is just for public health.”
As women take a more active role in agriculture, they begin to feel the lack of equipment specifically designed for working women.
Red Ants Pants is a woman owned and operated company in White Sulfur Springs, MT. They focus on keeping women working in agriculture safe and comfortable with their sustainable clothing.
The founder of Red Ants Pants, Sarah Calhoun saw a need in her community and rose to meet it, “(I) founded the company in 2006 because there was no other product on the market for ‘the heavy work pants that fit all women. shapes and sizes and straight and curved and all of that, so I decided to change it.’
All three have seen a shift in the market that values shopping local.
Sarah expressed how important these stores are to the communities around them, “with small businesses across all industries, these are the businesses that are the cornerstones of your neighborhood and your community in “The smallest town is the backbone of society and it’s very important when it comes down to the human element.”
But shopping locally is not a common practice for the wealth kingdom, and Gena has shared how the local market has changed over the years as owner.
“The local food movement over the past decade has been amazing. When the truck opened, people were really confused that we were using local produce and were like ‘your friend grows it, your neighbor did.’ And I think it’s a normal day and we realize how important it is to support local businesses and it comes down to farmers and ranchers.
And Virginia added how it thinks the change will affect the state.
“I think this is the way forward for Montana. It’s very important and growing in popularity. I think people like to buy from local producers, they know where they’re coming from and they like to meet the producers. .”
As local businesses begin to gain traction, more Montana women are taking on leadership roles thanks to community support.
“I’m lucky in the sense that since I’ve been walking, I’ve been my own boss, so I haven’t had to break through the glass ceiling. I’ve just built my own ladder and climbed it.” – Sarah Calhoun
“I don’t feel like I have to be challenged as a woman business owner. I think it has to do with being in Montana.” -Gene Burghoff
As Montanans know, it doesn’t matter who does the work, as long as the work gets done.
And Sarah shares how she works to make local businesses in Montana successful, especially in rural areas.
“In a place like White Sulphur, there are women doing all the work all the time next to the men. There aren’t many husbandry matters or gender-specific projects. Everyone works together. and get the job done.”
However, Gena fears that many people in the country still see farming, breeding and production as human property.
“I see that women are equal in this field, but I’m not sure it’s like that anywhere in the country.
And over time, Gena says, the agricultural sector will continue to change, either by choice or by force. “Whatever the cause of our climate change, I think we have to realize that it’s happening. You know, we’ve got a lot of different insects going further north. Fromberg with the floods. I mean, they lost everything they produced this summer because of it. We have to accept the challenges ahead, and I hope that people will be more active. If they don’t like environmental issues they are at least hopeful. We will have a passion to identify the struggles facing farms and agriculture today.”
No matter what happens, these small businesses will continue to work together to create a healthier and more sustainable state,
“I think they’re going to be very important to Montana’s future success because local is what it’s all about. That’s why the pricing and the shipping and the supply chain and the everything else.” – Virginia Cross
– all the time promoting and reaching women-led companies.
“The future is ripe for more women leaders, especially in rural Montana and right across America. There’s a lot of potential out there and I think with the examples being set and stories shared, I think we’re going to see more exposure. people moving to rural areas and there are more opportunities for women to step up into these corporate and leadership roles.” – Sarah Calhoun