homepage logo


By Staff | May 6, 2016

Mother’s Day is approaching and I was thinking about my own mother. One thought leads to another and then I was thinking about a specific kind of women – farm wives.

Growing up, about the only women I knew were farm wives. There was my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, and wives of neighboring farmers.

My grandmother lived on the family farm raising a family and keeping house for her two never-married farming sons until she was no longer able to take care of herself because of her age.

She went to a nursing home where she could receive the care she needed, but was not happy there. She wanted to go back to her home on the farm, but passed away at the nursing home after less than a year of living there.

My mother was raised on a farm so she knew what farm life was when she married my dad. My dad was a wonderful man, but there had to be exasperating times such as when she had to delay shopping trips because my dad only went to town on rainy days. Sunny days were for work.

My mother’s generation was among the first to get a job off the farm. My mother taught school because she loved teaching and would have done it just for the gas money.

However, I know my parents cashed her paycheck because the additional income was steady and handy.

While I was growing up, our neighbors were Ray and Lena who were nearing retirement.

Lena drove a tractor (an Allis Chalmers WC), milked the dairy cows by hand, cared for her garden, raised three sons and still found time to be generous with coffee and cookies to all visitors.

The phrase “salt of the earth” was created for farm wives like Lena.

My wife knew rural living as she grew up in a small Minnesota town and she would visit her grandparents on the farm. She became a farm wife when we were married 23 years ago.

She worked full time off the farm for 13 years because off farm income was becoming increasingly more important for most farmers.

And when needed, she would drive a tractor which was a new experience for her.

I believe she would say that farm life and being a farm wife has some drawbacks, but the rewards more than offset any of the inconveniences.

Now I see there are farm wives who have not just jobs, but careers off the farm.

Yet they maintain a strong connection to the farm, their family and community while pursuing their career.

Being a farm wife is more than cooking, cleaning, and providing for her family. There are trips to town for parts (usually with sketchy instructions), lending a hand to feed or sort livestock or treat a sick animal, while trying to make plans for the day’s menu, which may be delivered to the field.

In the three generations of grandmother, mother, and wife, I have seen changes, most of them reflecting the changing attitudes of the time, with each generation of women becoming more independent while keeping an active interest in the farm.

But in spite of all the changes I can see what all these generations of farm wives have in common. They all made the best of what was in front of them.

It may have been life in a drafty farm house, erratic work schedules, plumbing that was less than ideal, or delayed household purchases so that a farm expense could be covered, but they understood that life on the farm was more than a job, it was a commitment.

So on Mother’s Day, let us remember and honor those women for whom I have a large soft spot for – farm wives.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page