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Hambleton: Women are having more impact on production agriculture

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Kearney, Neb. – The story was one Ruth Hambleton was all too familiar with. Mrs. R was recently widowed, and had moved off the farm into town. Before her husband’s death, he turned the farm over to one of the more prominent farmers in their county. 

Mrs. R’s question to Hambleton was simple – “How do I get rid of Farmer X?” 

Mrs. R and her tenant had a verbal lease, and he was the one her husband had chosen to take over farming their land. The late Mr. R looked at Farmer X as a son, since they didn’t have children, Mrs. R tells Hambleton. But there were problems. 

“Farmer X won’t let me be involved in the farm the way I want to. He never talks to me and makes all my decisions for me. He is trying to take care of me,” she shares. 

Hambleton, who is the founder of Annie’s Project – Education for Farm Women, was in the early years of her Extension career at the time. She educated Mrs. R about her choices and made sure she understood the land was her land, and she could do with it what she wished. 

A few weeks later, Mrs. R terminated the lease with Farmer X. 

Focused on women

There are many farmers who don’t understand that the landowner is in control, Hambleton told more than 300 women during the Nebraska Women in Agriculture conference. 

“The farmer is simply leasing the land from the landowner,” she said. 

Setting the tone for the conference, the Annie’s Project founder told women that conventional wisdom says, “We don’t have to understand.  We have to accept.” 

These days, women are involved in most all farm and ranch operations, in some way, Hambleton related. 

“We understand that, while accepting agriculture is still primarily a male-dominated business. We humbly understand our role on the farm and ranch is to make life easier, but we don’t have to understand everything. We just accept it,” she said. “The challenge is to understand more, and just accept a little bit less.”

Role of women

Hambleton says women in the U.S. are fortunate to live in a country rich in tradition and innovation where females can own things, make decisions, inherit and pass it along to whoever they please. She often gets correspondence from women in other countries who are interested in Annie’s Project but don’t have the same freedoms enjoyed in the U.S. 

“I want women to understand where they are in the world. All women want to know they are secure where they are. When we gain control, no process is always easy. At times, we may need two hands on the wheel,” she stated. 

Women are primarily the record-keepers in the family, and sometimes they have to use those records to make the tough decisions. 

“Remember that the ‘why’ controls the who, what, where and when in our lives to help us keep control of our business. It gives us purpose to deal with family and business,” she said. 

Through Annie’s Project, Hambleton has learned that the number one concern women worry about is the debt load carried by their farms and ranches. 

“Whether we like it or not, the government plays a big role in that,” she said. 

Coming together

Conferences like the Women in Agriculture have big impacts on women, she continued. 

One of the founders of Annie’s Project, Deb Rood, lived through farm life in the 1980s when the agriculture economy suffered from high inflation, high interest rates and crashing land values. Despite that, she became a leader in farm and ranch programming for women, starting out with a $2,000 grant in Illinois. 

“From that came Annie’s Project,” Hambleton shared. 

“There are 2.1 million farm operations in the U.S., and in each and every one, we are the communicators and negotiators for the farm,” Hambleton stated. “When my mother, Annie, passed away in 1997, the dynamics changed on our own family farm.” 

“Mom was the hub of our family, and when she was gone, we had to find a place to put that spoke. It was now up to dad, my sister and I to organize things like Christmas get-togethers and all the other things mom did for us,” she said. 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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