women in agriculture

To the Farm Momma Doing it All

I belong to a group on Facebook for women in agriculture. I often see posts or questions pertaining to children on the farm – how do you keep them occupied while doing chores? Do you baby wear? What carrier do I get? What creative ways do you have for strapping them in a tractor?

Lastly, how do you still make sure you are giving your child your most precious asset, time?

I have been struggling with figuring out this new role on the farm. Am I farm mom? A Farm wife? Am I farmer? Am I a full-time employee? Am I a student in agriculture? Am I a mom? Am I a wife?

Needless to say, I am all of those things in one form or another, and finding the balance among it all has been a tricky one. I have been having a hard time accepting that I am in a new season of my life, and as such, a season of my role on the farm. Things are more difficult (but fun!) when you throw a kid in the mix.

Last fall, Harper spent a lot of hours in the car seat in the tractor with Dad. I had taken on a second job because we had bills that needed to be paid, which meant Dad had to step-up his game and besides working full-time, farming, and being a Dad without Mom while she worked 2 jobs was part of that. He did beautifully. We only lost 1 toy and 1 changing pad, and had one feeding mishap in the 2 month harvest season. No tears over any of that.

Time with Daddy in the tractor. He drove grain cart most of the time so he could stop for bottle feedings!

Time with Daddy in the tractor. He drove grain cart most of the time so he could stop for bottle feedings!

This spring was not as easy. Especially with livestock chores. Packing up a kid in a car seat, to move her to a stroller for chores, to pop her back in the car seat to go back to where we were currently living since we weren’t at the farm full-time yet, was an interesting predicament. I quickly realized that I can’t just hop in a tractor anymore or  run a supper out to the field when bedtime is at 7. I felt a little isolated. A little disorganized, and out of sorts with my “normal.”

This fall, I chose not to pick up my normal second job. Could we use the income, oh most definitely yes. It seems like every other day something goes wrong with this renovation…not having a working air conditioner and a softener we are pretty sure just kicked the bucket a few days ago. Some projects are on the back burner…that new garage roof is going to have to wait another year. Strapping Harper into a tractor is a little different as an almost 1 ½ year old. I won’t be as easy for Mark to just take her a long if I had to work, and he is also traveling for his full-time job on top of it. I chose to focus on taking care of my family this fall. It may mean I get to run more meals out to the field, or it may not, if Harper has an early childhood class instead. It means I probably won’t be spending much time in the tractor, but instead attending Halloween parties, feeding the pig and chickens at home, and selling honey. Will I still strap her in her Tula for some tractor driving? Most definitely!  However, I am also recognizing that she’s little, and a mover, and hours in the tractor won’t last as long as they used to. A second carseat that was a little easier to remove and transfer in vehicles was purchased in preparation for picking people up, transferring equipment, etc.

Harper in the Tula while doing horse chores with me. This is how we get chores done now.

Harper in the Tula while doing horse chores with me. This is how we get chores done now.

It is strange, being in this new season of my life. It is strange trying to figure out my role as a mom, a wife, a farmer, a business owner, and so much more. But I also know these days won’t last forever. Before I know it, she’ll be learning to drive the tractor herself, feeding the livestock herself…these days are precious. I don’t want to take this time for granted.

So mommas struggling to do it all on the farm, here’s what I’m saying…Go easy on yourself. You are doing SO MUCH.  

I once got told that the most important job you can do on the farm is to raise the next generation. What an undertaking we have.

It can be really hard some days. When your baby is crying, and somehow you are still supposed to do laundry, feed yourself and your husband and the dog, write out checks for seed and fertilizer, and schedule the veterinarian’s next visit.

It can be really hard. But mommas, it is so worth it when you see those little munchkins checking fields with their daddy or riding next to you in the tractor or showing their first calf. You are not alone in your struggles, your feelings, your excitement, your celebrations, or the long, exhausting days. We are a strong group of women, raising the next generation. What an undertaking it is.

Mark with Harper checking bean fields earlier this year.

Mark with Harper checking bean fields earlier this year.

-Sara

CommonGround: Field to Fork Dinner

Common Ground. That is the goal of the CommonGround group…to find common ground around food and farming, and for everyone to walk away with a better understanding of farming and why farmers choose to farm the way they do.

This past week, I was able to be part of an amazing event – The first CommonGround Field to Fork Dinner held in Minnesota.

Field to Fork Dinner at Thallman Farms

Field to Fork Dinner at Thallman Farms

Planning for this event started many months ago with four of us working on the details, look and feel of the event, in preparation for a crowd that maybe was unfamiliar with agriculture, but eager to visit a farm, ask questions, and have a conversation about food.

Thallman’s have an absolutely gorgeous farm, and were so generous in hosting the event. It couldn’t have been more perfect…dining right next to the soybean field.

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We diligently planned things like signage, decorations, photographers, custom printed invitations…even down to what forks and style of plates we should use were discussed. Details were key in the Field to Fork dinner.

It was nice to meet consumers and just talk…what about food concerns them, what questions do they have, what are they passionate about? How can I help you as a farmer? What things do you enjoy doing? Even transportation in the cities versus rural areas was discussed at my table.

My friend Betsy from Jensen Farm and Seeds provided me with a large box with wheat, canola, dark red kidney beans, navy beans, barley, and pinto beans. She also provided us with some fun facts like this one about dark red kidney beans!

My friend Betsy from Jensen Farm and Seeds provided me with a large box with wheat, canola, dark red kidney beans, navy beans, barley, and pinto beans. She also provided us with some fun facts like this one about dark red kidney beans!

All of this conversation was accompanied by amazing food – with most ingredients grown in Minnesota. Caprese (which I think I’m going to now make with some fresh tomatoes from my garden), roasted sweet corn, a delicious vegetable medley and pork ribs. Dinner was complete with delicious pies including strawberry rhubarb, apple, and pecan to name a few. The pies were topped with the most amazing fresh whipped cream.

Sweet Cheeks Honey was given away as favors, which was a really awesome opportunity for me to talk about our bees and what we do on our farm. Martin County Magic Seasoning was also given as favors.

Sweet Cheeks Honey as favors

Sweet Cheeks Honey as favors

We finished off the night with a Q&A session from the crowd.  I was genuinely surprised by some of the questions, and intrigued as well. Sometimes I start to wonder if maybe we aren’t listening enough to our consumers. Many of those I talked to, just wanted to understand better what we did, or wanted to support local with their dollars, and they weren’t sure how to do that. Some of the questions were around regulations, the farm bill, and even technology.

The food was delicious and  beautifully prepared. The handcrafted tables came from Country Style Accents.  The weather proved to be perfect, even if it was a bit muggy while setting everything up. Lastly, the conversation and sharing what we do as farmers was so meaningful to everyone who attended.

My boss provided some of the wine grapes from his vineyard. He sells his grapes to Chankasa, a winery that was featured at our event.

My boss provided some of the wine grapes from his vineyard. He sells his grapes to Chankaska, a Minnesota winery that was featured at our event.

I am so grateful to be a part of this group of amazing women. This was my first major event with CommonGround, and I can’t wait for more. If you ever have questions about your food and farming, please reach out. If I can’t answer it, I will find someone who can…and the farm women of CommonGround have a wealth of knowledge to share. Join in the conversation.

The Women of CommonGround and the FFA Volunteers who assisted.

The Women of CommonGround and the FFA Volunteers who assisted.

-Sara

Women Farmers: Yes, We Wear Makeup

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.

He really liked the pictures of my rabbits. This is Fidget.

He really liked the pictures of my rabbits. This is Fidget.

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His eyes got pretty wide when I told him I drive equipment like this.

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.

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Rock picking has been one of my standard jobs on the farm.

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.

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Yes, I farm, and yes, I wear makeup.

-Sara