In August, I went to the AgChat Conference in North Carolina. On the way back on my flight from O’hare to Minneapolis, I was seated next to a gentleman flying in for a conference. Behind us, two young boys were fighting in their seats right before take-off. The gentleman asked where their parents were, only to be answered from the man in the seat beside us that they were unaccompanied minors from the looks of their wristbands.
They kept fighting. One brother pushed the other brother, hard enough into the seat’s arm rest. Tears ensued. The flight attendant was struggling to get them both buckled and in their seats to take off. The gentleman asked me if I minded him moving and having one of the kids sit next to me and he would sit next to the other. I smiled, said no and explained I have 4 nieces and nephews. The flight attendant thanked us profusely. Heck, she even offered me my choice of liquor on the house!
At first, the boy next to me was very upset and worried. After all, he was going to have to explain to his mom how he got that shiner that was developing under his eye. But after awhile, he warmed up and started talking. He liked to play football. His parents were divorced. He was flying back home from spending the summer at his dad’s. We started talking about what he did all summer when he mentioned his Grandpa had a hobby farm. I smiled and said, “Oh really, I’m a farmer too.”
He stopped. Looked at me quizzically and responded, “You don’t look like a farmer.”
“I don’t?” I asked, thinking he was going to tell me I was too young.
Instead, the young man quipped, “You wear makeup. Farmers shouldn’t wear makeup. You’re too pretty to be farmer.”
Thanks for the compliment (in a roundabout way), I have to take them where I can. There is one thing you can say about children, they will tell you the truth, bless their hearts. I proceeded to bring out my phone (don’t worry, it was on airplane mode, I swear!) and show him pictures of some of my animals, equipment, and farm scenes. We talked about combines, tractors, chickens, corn, bins, hunting, rabbits, cats and dogs too. We got off the plane, and parted our ways, only to see him, his brother and mom waiting for their step-dad to pick them up at the pick-up/drop-off area. She thanked me. I said no need, and I got a hug from the young man. I hopped in my husband’s truck and recounted my fun airplane ride home.
So why am I writing about it now? I am a farmer. A young farmer. Yes, I wear makeup. I can’t go out of the house without a coat of mascara and some foundation at the very least. So why can’t farmer’s wear makeup?
Why can’t farmers be female? Now, more than ever, female farmers are entering the great big picture of agriculture. They have degrees in business, marketing, chemistry, biology, management, animal science, plant science, communications and more. They are taking over family farms or starting new ones. They are out in the fields cultivating, planting and harvesting. They are in the barns with the livestock. They are cleaning pens, administering shots, completing records on new calves, and filling feed tanks. And most of them, have children they take care of while doing all of this too! I’ve worked with lots of women farmers, from ones that own and operate CSA’s, to ones that operate a steer operation, others that operate dairy farms, and even one that owns an apple orchard.
I farm with my husband. I help drive tractor and combine. When we get our flock of meat chickens every year, I do all the chores for that. I help cut down trees when they are in the field. I pick rock out in the field. I help on the communications side of things, running the Facebook page and doing public speaking engagements. I help with paperwork (my least favorite job!) and so much more. I grew up on a farm. Before school, I had to feed baby calves. After school, I had to help feed the cattle or help with shipping. Castration and dehorning time was all hands on deck at our farm. The work of a farmer is something I am very familiar with.
So if the newest generation still thinks farmers are all male or like their grandpa, what can we do to change that perception? How can we as females, send the message that women are farmers too? It starts with blogs like this one. It starts with getting out there and speaking about our farms. It starts with helping out with classroom education. It starts with volunteering with 4-H, FFA, Open Class and county fairs. It starts by making our voices heard as females.
I’m so glad that other female’s that are involved in agriculture are picking up on this too. The Pinke Post is currently featuring 30 days of Women in Ag. Minnesota Farmer is a great blog, where she does a lot of the farm work right alongside her husband, like driving the combine or plowing fields. Or one of my favorite farming women, Meg Brown who has some great, no-nonsense posts about the truth and facts of farm life.
Women can be farmers too. They can be a farmer with their diamond earrings in while milking cows. They can be a farmer wearing fancy cowboy boots while they combine. Or in my case, they can be a farmer who wears makeup, and explains life on the farm to a boy sitting next to me at 30,000 feet in the air.