Elizabeth Alexander Abstract


Elizabeth Alexander, Purdue University




Women who operate small-scale farms and sell to small markets in Indiana may encounter certain obstacles and constraints due to self-employment in the traditionally male-dominated field of agriculture. Researchers have recognized the role of sustainable agriculture ideology in attracting women to these niche agricultural markets. Despite increasing opportunities for women in sustainable agriculture, research suggests that traditional gender roles are often maintained, manifesting itself through several obstacles (Pilgeram & Amos, 2015). Female agricultural entrepreneurs encounter obstacles including work-family balance, geographic barriers, access to physical resources, access to financial resources, access to places of information. Previous research indicates that female entrepreneurs have less access to human, social, and financial capital to support their business ventures (Powell & Eddleston, 2013). However, this study explored the feminine perspective and management styles which may serve as beneficial resources.

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe existing obstacles encountered by female entrepreneurs in niche agricultural markets and their methods of building resilience in their business. Quantitative data was collected through an online survey of 62 agricultural entrepreneurs across the state of Indiana. Participants were asked questions pertaining to their business structure, resources, constraints, processes, achievements, and demographics. Several responses to open-ended questions were also collected and analyzed through open, axial coding. Study results include the diversity of the population, value of human capital resources, prioritization of quality products, significance of internal constraints, discrepancies in division of labor and women’s obstacles to access to social networks. A greater understanding of the obstacles encountered by women agricultural entrepreneurs can also provide valuable insight to Land-Grant University Extension, policymakers, and stakeholders in the Indiana agriculture industry.

Name of Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Year of Submission



Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication


Dr. Levon Esters, Chair
Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication

Dr. Maria Marshall
Department of Agricultural Economics

Dr. Neil Knobloch
Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication