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What’s the role of the female farmer?

I’ve had something on my mind lately, I spend a lot of time responding to messages and comments, most positive, some not so much.  I want to take a minute and acknowledge all the female farmers and ranchers out there.  We find ourselves in a unique position, we run households, businesses, farms, ranches, have outside careers, kids, errands, the endless lists; yet we are constantly being questioned on our credentials.  

How did I get here?

I don’t think there is enough praise for the women who find themselves in this role.  If you would have asked me 10 years ago that I would be this involved in the farm and ranch, I would have called you crazy.  I had worked hard to finish my degree in Business Finance and began a career in banking.  I always commuted the 45-minute drive off the farm for work.  I always knew working off the farm was my only option to maintain health insurance and a 401k.   And I always loved it.  I have always loved working and taking on a challenge.  I do not do well with idle time!  

While I loved living far out and loved raising our kids on the farm, I didn’t realize the impact I could have in by getting involved as a woman farmer.  With the influx of social media over the past years, I found more and more women like me.  Farm and ranch wives and mothers, all with a unique skill set to serve their families.  

It was hard initially to think that I added value and impact to our farm and ranch story.  I work and will continue to work off the farm.  This role is important!  Don’t let anybody make you feel less because you can’t work daily on the farm or ranch!  Your role is so much more important than you think.  

Driving to work most days, I felt like I was doing a disservice to my family by leaving.  After seeing how many other farm and ranch moms doing the same, I was able to embrace my role and my importance.  My job is to provide some insurance and some savings for retirement.  An important part of serving both myself and my family many, many years into the future. 

Once I learned to love and embrace that I needed to work off the farm, I found myself asking, what else can I do to empower the farm?  We have kind of always sparingly sold freezer beef over the years to an occasional close friend or family member but something changed when Covid hit.  I think we all finally began to realize just how fragile our national food systems were, or at least I did.  

Grocery shortages, supply chain mismanagement, and inflated prices have historically been outside of all farmers’ and ranchers’ control.  While large plants were shut down for weeks or months on end, farming operations never ceased.  This made all of America take a closer look at how farms and ranches truly operate. 

That was when it really “clicked” for me that consumers want a quality and readily accessible source of beef for their families.  I feel like this is when we really saw the rise of women among farm and ranch families.  Women who are able to use their unique talent to tell their stories and share their perspectives with the world.  We want to provide the United States with fresh meat and fresh produce!

Women farmers and ranchers want to be just as involved in food production as men.  We take great pride in what we feed our families every single day and want to be able to share that with others.  I love seeing all of the women involved in the direct-to-consumer beef business here in the United States.  It is an opportunity that allows us to disrupt the agriculture industry.  It has given control back to farmers and ranchers and largely due to some of the most inspirational women I’ve seen on social media.  

Rural women are taking their knowledge and applying it in an entirely new way.  In my own personal case, I feel like it allows me to use that finance degree I worked hard for while providing another beneficial revenue stream to our operation.  Farmers and ranchers are among the most innovative when it comes to seeking out new, sustainable farming practices.  From the farmers market to online sales,  there are so many leadership opportunities for women and the cool thing is, our children get to watch along the way.  

What about the other women?

Now, I don’t want to polarize the women who are able to stay on the farm, as their role is just as important, if not more important than mine.  They offer expertise and support in a way that is just different than what I know.  I see just as many stay-at-home moms who are an inspiration to what women in agriculture provide.  They tackle the never-ending bookkeeping and run their own businesses, all while homeschooling or caring for multiple children. 

Often, they have the added element of caring for young children while running equipment or loading up to feed.  I can’t imagine the amount of gear the women who must take their children to work must pack along or the added stress of keeping them fed while working.  Raising littles is hard, quite literally the hardest job in the entire world and these women do it while tackling farm life.  

Whether we’ve spent the day taking care of littles or at work, there is still more to be done.  Likely, supper needs to be made, homework to be reviewed, kitchens to clean, and laundry to fold.  Schedules must be kept, from bedtimes to ballgames, farm and ranch moms truly must keep it all moving forward.  In our world, the work is truly never done, it doesn’t matter if you have been at work all day or been home with the kids. 

What does the future hold for women farmers?

My days begin early, I like to try and take the first hour of the day to myself because it is likely my only to myself.  I get the kids fed and ready for their school day.  From there, I am busy working for the day.  After work and school, it’s chore and homework time.  The kids and I tackle the animals around our home place daily.  We have several chickens, horses, and currently a needy bottle calf.  Once this is done, I try and get dinner warmed up or ready for the evening.  During the various sports seasons, our dinner schedule gets thrown out the window and we eat when we can! 

In the background of all this, I am currently working to expand our direct-to-consumer beef sales business.  I spend quite a bit of time responding to messages and questions through social media.  I love being involved in building a lasting business and legacy that I hope to be able to pass on to our children.  I share this so the world knows just how strong the women in agriculture truly are and that we are proud to be considered a female producer.

Add on the needs of the farm and ranch.  Just because we are women, doesn’t mean that we don’t want and need to pitch in.  It truly is a family business around here and we all get in there and get the work done.  I love being able to spend time outside and helping in any way I can.  I just don’t get to do nearly as much of it as I would like.  Just because I am not there to do the daily physical work, working cattle, bailing hay, etc. my role is to maximize earnings.  It has taken me some time to realize that’s ok because I can support our operation in other ways.  I don’t have to be physically present on the farm every single day to understand the inner workings or have an opinion on how we run our operation. 

The same is true for all farm and ranch wives. Oftentimes, we are highly educated and provide just as much support and input as our husbands.  Female producers don’t have to be present every single day to be able to intelligently describe and share their operation.  These women in agriculture deserve every bit of praise and acknowledgment as men do.  We have the same tools and resources available to us to be successful!  

So here is a big shout-out to all the farm and ranch wives and moms who work it alongside their husbands or who work outside careers!  We are all just doing our best to support our dreams for our families and cheering on the other women in our roles!   It takes more than one farm or ranch to feed America and personally love seeing how these other women succeed!  Here’s to the women who will become the future face of farming!

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