Owning Land: the Experiences of Women Farmers in Maryland

Open Access
Franklin, Madeline Gray
Graduate Program:
Rural Sociology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Carolyn Elizabeth Sachs, Thesis Advisor
  • gender
  • land
  • agriculture
  • property
This study examines the experiences of female farmland owners in North-Central Maryland. It explores the different ways in which women have acquired land, the variety of relationships that women have with their land, and the ways in which a woman’s property impacts her roles and relationships on the farm. The study consists of in-depth interviews conducted with a sample of women from six counties in North-Central Maryland. A snowball method of sampling was employed to gather participants for the study. The sample is comprised of women who own land that they operate as farms, although they may share the title and operate it in conjunction with others. Efforts were made to collect data from as diverse of a sample as possible, striving to include women who have accessed land in different ways, who operate different size and types of farms, and who both do and do not share the land title. Interviews were conducted over a period of four months, and were semi-structured in nature. A phenomenological method of analysis was then employed to draw out themes and make more explicit the experiences of women on their land. This study finds that land holds more than a monetary value to women farmers, serving as a tool of empowerment, a burden, and a physical and emotional connection to family. In addition, social processes also impact the meaning of land ownership, with gender roles and relationships with family members mitigating women’s power on their land.