FROM PASTURES TO DAIRY FARMS, LOCAL WOMEN ARE
wearing the pants in what is still largely thought of as a
man’s world. You may find them writing business plans,
managing hired hands or mucking out milking barns — all
part of the job on the modern ranch.
“I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing,” says
Hall, 60, a fourth-generation Olema rancher who started
working cattle when she was a kid. “I was very happy to be
my dad’s boy, on the horse and with the cattle all the time.”
Of course, there never has been such a thing as a “wom-
an’s role” on the ranch. In the past, as with today, that role
varies with each individual. But a combination of modern
social values and a rising demand for local and artisan
foods has led to more opportunities for local agriculture.
As a result, many women are finding their niche in farming,
whether they are beginners just starting out or the next
generation taking over the family business.
“It is really inspiring to see young women coming home
and starting new businesses with their families,” says Patricia
Hickey, stewardship director with the Marin Agricultural
Land Trust. “They are going to college, coming back, and
reinvigorating their family dairies or ranches and helping
bring them into the 21st century.”
Overall, small family farms — the kind where one or
two people can manage the bulk of the work — are in steep
decline around the nation. A century ago, nearly 40 percent of
Americans lived on farms. Today, less than 1 percent do — and
most of those farms are large-scale operations where the own-
ers have little hands-on relationship with the land or livestock.
Opposite page: Stewart
Ranch barn in Olema.
This page: U2 Ranch
owner Bobbie Hall
with her dog Bailey
and part of her herd on
pastureland in Olema.