'Disappointing' column about women in agriculture sows dissent

A recent column by a well-known agriculture journalist in Saskatchewan has sown seeds of protest among the women who toil on the land, and work in the farm industry.

Kevin Hursh column 'ignored asking the reasons why women aren't more involved,' says Women in Ag co-founder

Kim Keller says more women are showing up on the front lines of the agriculture industry. The challenge now, she says, is to remove barriers keeping them from moving up the chain. (Paul Dornstauder/CBC)

A recent column by a well-known agriculture journalist in Saskatchewan has sown seeds of protest among the women who toil on the land, and work in the farm industry.

"Reading that column, it was a little bit disappointing," Kim Keller, a co-founder of Saskatchewan Women in Ag, said in an interview with CBC Radio.

The column in question, written by Kevin Hursh and published earlier this month in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, suggested women are not interesting in taking on leadership roles in the farming industry. That's angered more than a few women who farm in Saskatchewan.   

"It really ignored asking the reasons why women aren't more involved," said Keller.

Complex barriers for women in industry

The answer, she said, is a complex one. First, there are barriers that hold women back. For example, she said, farm board vacancies are often filled by the person leaving the role and often the responsibility is passed from one man to another.

But also, Keller said, there is the issue of family and the fact that many women take the leading role in the home.

"How do we work with that and how do we remove that as a barrier?" she asked.

"It's important that women have a place in a network to talk about some of the things that that they are running up against and that they know that they have support behind them to get past those barriers."

Support networks needed

One of those supports is Saskatchewan Women in Ag, which describes itself as "an organization that promotes women in the agriculture industry, as well as the agriculture industry as a whole."

Keller said that more support is needed to tear down the barriers for women in agriculture.

And while she finds the Hursh column lacking in insight into women's issues, she said she can see some benefits from his comments.

"At least we are talking about it again."

About the Author

Danny Kerslake

Danny Kerslake is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio stations across Western Canada. In his career with CBC Saskatchewan, Danny has reported from every corner of the province and has lived and worked in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. Danny is a newsreader and digital AP for CBC Saskatoon.

With files from Saskatoon Morning