Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture

Minister Bibeau reaffirms commitment to women entrepreneurship in agriculture

September 23, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

On September 18, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau held a virtual roundtable discussion with women entrepreneurs from across Canada’s agricultural food chain, focusing on the opportunities and challenges that exist for them in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

During the roundtable, Minister Bibeau announced that Farm Credit Canada’s Women Entrepreneur Program has already helped 1,391 women with loans under this program, totalling more than $994.5 million. This is already nearly double the $500-million amount initially announced in March of 2019 for this three-year program, demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit of hundreds of women in Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector.

This program is part of the federal Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a $5-billion investment. In agriculture, there are over 75,000 female farm operators, representing some 28.7 per cent of all farm operators in Canada – a number which continues to modestly increase. In 1996, women represented 25.3 per cent of farm operators. The Women Entrepreneurship Program is expected to increase this proportion.

“Our Government will continue to help women-owned businesses grow and succeed in every sector of Canada’s economy, and agriculture is no exception. We encourage women entrepreneurs to capitalize on the opportunities that will come with our increased support,” said Mary Ng, minister of small business, in a released statement.

During the roundtable, Minister Bibeau, in her capacity as the first-ever female Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, highlighted her personal commitment towards greater inclusion of women in the agriculture and agri-food sector. She stressed the need to overcome barriers to equality that research shows include: work-life balance, skills training, networking and mentorship, access to information management, and financial barriers.

“Women play a vital role in growing the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. Over the past several decades, the proportion of female farm operators has continued to increase. While this progress is positive, women remain underrepresented in the sector and continue to face significant barriers,” Bibeau stated.

“That is why the Government is taking steps to promote and empower women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector through various initiatives, and through conversations like those held during today’s roundtable to better understand and help address the obstacles they face. I am confident that together we can build on the progress made and strengthen and diversify our entire agricultural sector,” Bibeau continued.

The Women Entrepreneurship program provides women with access to capital needed to launch or grow their business, along with tools, resources and mentorship. As part of the program, borrowers can also have up to $1,000 of their processing fees waived to reinvest into both personal and professional development that best suits their individual and business needs. The funds, for example, can be used to pay tuition for a college or to attend in-person or online learning events.

Save the date: October 20 for the Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture Summit, a virtual mentorship event.