Ladies of the farm
How well I remember it from my growing-up years. A well-meaning neighbor or other visitor might call or stop by our farm to see Dad, but was greeted by first by Mom, who was – without even knowing it -the official face of the farm when people stopped by.
Often times that person would ask my mother, “Is the boss around?”
My mother must have secretly cringed. But then, maybe not. It was a different day. But I suspect that if someone were to ask that question today to your average woman of the farm, that person might get to whistle through a brand new pair of front teeth.
From the days of Carolyn Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie” to today, women have clearly played many roles on the farm. Those roles are all important, even if the woman of the farm begets far fewer accolades for her contributions than her male farmer counterpart.
I just read something that talked about how farms are generally assumed to belong to a man – such as, “This is John Doe’s farm,” rather than, “This is John and Mary Doe’s farm.” Or, “This is John Doe – he farms north of Farmville -and this is his wife, Mary,” rather than, “This is John and Mary Doe – they farm north of Farmville.” See the difference?
Everyone contributes to the success of the farm -even if part of that success is that the people who go out and do that greasy, dirty, smelly work have clean clothes to wear every day and something to eat. It all works together to create success.
But today’s woman of the farm is often so much more than the role in which she is stereotyped. More women today are working and running farms than ever before. They are out helping in the livestock yards, running tractors, combines and trucks in the fields, overseeing livestock units, doing the daily livestock chores and getting involved in the overall operation of the farm. Sometimes it’s out of necessity – after children leave home and the work force is smaller; sometimes they just plain want to do it … and sometimes they have to do it.
A woman I know took over the farm after her husband died. I have tremendous respect for her and other women who have done that. I attended an “Annie’s Project” course with her, and found her to be a courageous woman who actively sought out answers to her questions.
Some wise person once said, “…educated people don’t have all the answers, but they know where to get them.” That was very true of this woman, and of other women who have found themselves new to running a farm. They have to take a deep breath, walk into the elevator (or wherever) and ask questions for which they need answers, putting aside their fears about what her male counterparts will think of her. Believe me, she feels self-conscious as it is.
Long gone are the days of, “A woman’s place is in the home.” While it’s wonderful if that’s what she wants, today’s agriculturalists are made up more and more of women – including agronomists, tractor operators and mechanics, veterinarians, researchers, geneticists, farm managers, field representatives, ag sales and business people, ag education teachers/FFA advisors, extension specialists, sale barn workers, bookkeepers, and yes – actual farmers.
And she performs her chosen vocation while managing a home, family, farm finances, the mowing, food preservation, baling, parts running, making birthdays and holidays happen every year, and holding the family together with the bonds that only she can provide.
The job is demanding on all fronts–physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually – and sometimes, even spiritually. But today’s women of the farm are meeting the challenge.
And they’re less likely to fold when a well-meaning person asks, “Is the boss around?”
Most people I know enjoy their front teeth too much to ask something like that today.
Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.karenschwaller.com.
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