Women play key roles on Wisconsin dairy farms. They may be directly involved with physical or financial aspects of the business, work off-farm for additional income, benefits or other reasons, or care for family members and the home itself. Yet they often are not recognized for their many contributions and sacrifices.
"Although people make assumptions about farm women, research has not been conducted among the many women on Wisconsin dairy farms to create a valid picture of their most common needs and concerns," said Mark Purschwitz, Ph.D., a scientist in the National Farm Medicine Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation.
Purschwitz and the NFMC are conducting a statewide random sample mail survey to provide an opportunity for farm women to tell an often untold story that can include extreme time pressure, social isolation, intergenerational conflict and lack of appreciation.
Questionnaires were first mailed in late March to a 10 percent sample of Wisconsin dairy farms. The easy, straightforward questionnaire covers topics such as sleep, health insurance, off-farm employment, child care, socializing and networking, communication with spouses, relationships and more. Space is provided for additional comments.
Completed questionnaires are being handled very carefully by experienced staff, Purschwitz said. Rigorous procedures are fully explained and closely followed to assure anonymity and confidentiality of the information.
Information will be grouped and summarized into a report to be made available statewide. The report will be used to help promote understanding of farm women's issues and to facilitate solutions. Beneficiaries of the report will include farm women, the agricultural community as a whole, primary health care providers, mental health and marital counselors, clergy, state and county Extension staff, county health departments, key legislators and policy makers and farm organizations, among others.
Women receiving the survey are encouraged to complete it regardless of whether life is going well or not so well and return it in the postage-paid envelope provided. Because a random sample is used for scientific validity, each returned survey is important for making the results truly representative, Purschwitz said.