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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Women In Agriculture ~ Today's Farm Chicks

This topic has been pretty hot on my FB and Twitter feeds over the last couple of days.  And, this happens to be a subject I'm really passionate about.

Are women considered farmers yet?

I am a farm chick.  Always have been, hopefully always will be.  Am I taken seriously as a farmer?  Am I taken seriously as a woman AND a farmer?   Sometimes, we can feel like hired help.  Man or woman.  Our jobs are tough, redundant and most times downright dirty.  Does a salesman come into my barn and see me in my bibs and boots and ask the hired man if he is in charge?  Yes.  Does it rattle me?  Oh God, yes.  At what point in our careers are we finally respected or even considered an owner/operator?

Today's farm chicks are educated, hard working and, above all else, have chosen this profession.  We have accepted the risks, the lifestyle and the work that ensues.  So then why, after over 15 years post grad, do I get overlooked for someone else who may be deemed 'in charge'?  I believe, I am part of the problem.

Life is busy.  Farm life is crazy busy.  Being a farm owner, mom, friend, and somewhere in there, a wife is downright scary busy.  But for me, and probably many other women in this industry, my family and the farm is always first.  And here lies the problem.  Many don't 'see' me.  In agriculture, this can be a huge reason women are still not considered the 'farmer' on the farm.  You don't always see me sitting at a farm organization meeting.  You don't always see me at a conference or seminar.  This is facetime for farmers.  If you miss it, others miss you.  I really have become a hired hand in this respect.  Missed.

My husband has really become the face behind our farm.  He is the one you will 'see' around a commodity group table with other committed farmers trying to make a difference in this industry.  This is where I believe you are started to be taken seriously.  You need to be seen.  In most farming marriages however, you will typically only see one.  Sometimes its the she of the farm, but quite often, its still the he.

So what is the solution?  I feel the need to participate, but still feel bound to farm and family.  Many other women have an off-farm job to contend with on top of farming and parenting duties.  How do we find the time to represent an industry we have built our life around?  We are huge contributors, but quietly.  Many believe women aren't taken seriously and that is why we aren't sitting on these boards.  I feel quite the opposite.  I think (in my case anyway) we have done this to ourselves.  We have gone underground to keep things running smoothly at home while foregoing our seat in the 'seen' farming world.

I don't believe my story is finished though.  I'm far too passionate for what I do.  I'm just going to sit on simmer for a little while longer and enjoy my exhausting physical labour (while I'm still able to do so), watch my kids grow, and take on small roles when I can.

For all my fellow farm chicks, kudos for the strides we've made yet far.  And to the next salesman who asks to see my husband or someone in charge, you may be shown the door.  You've been warned.





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