During Womenâ€™s History Month, we recognize the generations of women who shaped our society through their tireless work and commitment to family and community. Among these women are female farmers who tamed Texas and survived by living off the land.
Women Farmersâ€”A Growing Trend in Texas
In South Texas and along the border, Mexican-American women have a rich history of farming. During the 1500s, many Native American women married Spaniards who entered the region looking for riches and conquest. Under Spanish law, these women had community property rights. Soon, they bought and sold ranchlands all along the Rio Grande Valley.
Among these women was Rosa Hinojosa de BallÃ. At one time, she owned over a million acres in South Texas and became one of the most influential women of her time. Known as “La Patrona,â€ she was the first cattle queen of Texas and was quite the entrepreneur. In addition to cattle, she also raised sheep, goats and horses on her properties.
Today, roughly 14 percent of U.S. farms are owned and operated by women. While that number has mostly stayed unchanged nationally over the years, Texas has actually bucked the national trend. According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, the number of female farm operators in Texas has increased by 10 percent since 2007.
Because Texas relies heavily on agricultural exports, the 2014 Agricultural Act was an important step in allowing both men and women farmers to better plan for future seasons and keep the agriculture industry strong. Initiatives like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm loan programs for minorities and women farmers help support new farmers and ranchers by offering loans to build a business.
Farmers and ranchers play a crucial role in the economy of the 23rd District of Texas. Many communities rely on agriculture as the lionâ€™s share of their local economy. Listening to the concerns of men and women in agriculture is an office priority.
This month, as part of Womenâ€™s History Month, I urge you to reach out to those women you know who are involved in bringing food from farms, fields and ranches to our stores and ultimately to our tables. Thank them for their commitment to feeding and growing our local communities.
U.S. Representative Pete P. Gallego represents the 23rd District of Texas, which includes all or parts of 29 counties in southwest Texas, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso. He serves on the House Armed Services and House Agriculture Committees.