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Growing up on a farm in New Jersey, sisters Rebekah Alstede Modery and Sarah Alstede developed a deep bond with the agricultural industry at a young age. Despite the prevailing narrative of farming being a male-dominated field, these young women were determined to make their mark. Rebekah, 24, with a double major in agricultural business and sustainable agricultural production, and Sarah, 22, specializing in animal science with a focus in equine studies, decided to follow their passion and take on the family farm as a career path.

Traditionally, farming has been seen as a male-driven industry. However, recent data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service revealed that there were approximately 1.22 million female producers in 2022, representing 36% of all producers. With the growing recognition of women’s roles in agriculture, the Census of Agriculture began to collect more detailed demographic data in 2017. It became evident that women were actively involved in key decision-making areas such as day-to-day operations and financial management.

As the younger generation of women like Rebekah and Sarah step into leadership roles on the farm, they face a host of financial challenges. Despite a steady number of producers, farms are consolidating, with larger farm sizes becoming more common. Furthermore, about 23% of farms in the U.S. carry debt, creating financial strain. Climate change poses another significant challenge, with changing temperatures, rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events impacting crop development and pest pressure. The need for adaptive strategies and financial planning is more critical than ever.

The Alstede family experienced firsthand the challenges posed by climate change when a frost-freeze period threatened their crops. With innovative strategies and investments in protective measures, such as double covers for strawberries, they managed to mitigate the risks. However, the additional costs incurred due to climate change underscore the financial burden faced by farmers. The ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and persevere through adversity is a testament to the resilience of individuals like Rebekah and Sarah Alstede.

Despite the uncertainties and obstacles in the agricultural industry, Rebekah and Sarah are determined to carry on the legacy of Alstede Farms. With a deep-rooted connection to the land and a shared passion for sustainable farming practices, these young women are well-equipped to navigate the challenges that lie ahead. Through their grit, determination, and commitment to empowering women in agriculture, Rebekah and Sarah Alstede are paving the way for a more inclusive and resilient farming community.

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