Celebrities garner a lot of attention for the work they do and their “stressful” schedules. They deserve credit but so does the everyday working women and mothers who step up to the plate day in and day out to get the job done. One can think of these “ordinary women” as filming a major full-length motion picture that either never ends or has many sequels!
Imperfect Women would like to introduce the first in a series focusing on ordinary women and their careers. These might be “ordinary” women but their work and their lives have an extraordinary impact on many. Join us as we learn more about these women and their career choices and lives.
Our first interview is with a woman whom we’ll call the Farmer’s Wife. She has been a farmer for the past 25 years and we couldn’t wait to hear about something that most of us have never experienced. Enjoy!
Interviewed by Samantha
How did you get into farming?
I met a farmer who had farmed with his Grandfather who bought the farm in 1939, and his Father, so as you can see it is a family farm. Gramps started with horses, and now we have GPS in the fields!
What do you want people to know about farming?
The first thing would be to tell everyone that it is not a glam job at all. You have to be willing to put in long days during the spring when you plant a crop, and long days in the fall when you take it out. Also when feeding livestock, you are responsible 365 days a year for chores, there are no holidays off with pay. You have to be willing to be a master of all trades, a Mom, wife, cook, nursing sick kids and animals, non-paid hired hand, book keeper, secretary, and work with family. It is really best to learn all the jobs on the farm, that way you can step in where needed. From packing lunches for each tractor, to doing chores by yourself when need be to jumping in a tractor and going to the field. These are just some things a farm wife does everyday.
Are you happy in your job… or are you making the most of it so you can pay the bills?
Yes. I never thought I would want to be dirty everyday, sweating and doing a lot of manual work, but the rewards are very fulfilling. No need for a gym membership, you are always on the move. Money will always be an issue with farming, inputs and costs can change so fast. If the markets are down, costs can be down, if markets are high, the costs follow the trend upwards. You hope after farming 40-50 years you will have the land paid for to have a retirement. During the 80’s when there was a farm crisis, we saw neighbors lose everything. You have to be willing to sacrifice any extras and tell your children NO! We never went without food and the basics of living, but our children found out what every dollar meant on the farm.
What is the best part about being a farmer?
Being your own boss, doing something different everyday, the wide open spaces. Looking out across the land, clear skies, even smelling the dirt being worked in the spring is an awesome thing. Of course the downside is the smell of manure, but worked into the soil, it does not last long. Being part of the global world is something every farmer is proud of. You plant a seed and watch where it goes from there. Markets all over the world use the product you grow. Also being able to stop and have a cup of coffee with a friend or read a book in the farrowing house is also a great thing.
Also we have Conservation Reserve Program acres- set aside by creeks, to preserve the land from soil run off and for wildlife to live on. Bluestem grasses are used for this. This is set aside acreage, paid for by the government- but you don’t do it for the money. An acre of ground is being sold for up to 12,000/acre now. You only receive 230 dollars an acre for enrolling in the CRP contract. It is held for at least 10 years with no increase in money for the farmer.
What is the most frustrating thing you deal with?
Men!! They seem to be able to only focus on one thing at a time, while women seem to be able to do several things at a time. While they mull over every little thing, you have laundry on the line, chores done, and meals in the crock-pot for the evening. Male/female brains are really different.
Weather is also another thing you have to deal with. Being buried with snow in the winter and having to dig your way to the livestock, telling hubby to hurry up as the warm house is up the hill with hot coffee there. Spring planting and mud everywhere, seeing a crop hailed on, it all adds to the frustration of the job.
Tell us about a time that you were really proud of yourself on the job- big or small.
When my father in law died two weeks before harvest. My mother in law had major health issues along with a couple of other family members. I knew I would have to really step up, and with some hired help, I stepped up and combined the crop. I truly found out about long hours you where sit in one place all day, whereas before I would just fill in. I always unloaded grain and watched augers and did chores when the men were bringing in the crop. I can tell you, that last round of corn could not come fast enough for me. Again, five years later our lives stopped. A major illness hit my husband, and I took over the farm operation with some hired help. That fall all of our neighbors brought their combines for one day. We had twelve combines running that day and we finished taking out our crop. You are humbled very quickly, by what neighbors will do for each other in a farming community. We had helped others, and when we needed help, they were right there.
Is it challenging to be female in such a male dominated industry?
It used to be a very male dominated industry, but in my state half the acres are owned by women. Many don’t physically farm, but have held the family farm together. Some son and daughters are farming, some is crop share or just rented acres. I belong to a great support group of women who are very active in the family farm operations in my state. We all follow the markets, investments, when to purchase inputs and the general things farmers do every day. It is a business as much as a way of life now.
Walk us through a typical day from start to finish:
6 am- no alarm needed. It’s a built in clock! Kids getting ready for school, planning the meals for the day, chores, keeping a house clean, laundry, the same as if you were going to an office. Hours vary as to when your day is finished. In the spring and fall you work until dark, in the winter you quit when chores are done for the day. The ground is covered with its winter blanket, waiting for spring.
If you could have any other career what would it be?
I always wanted to be a nurse. On the farm you are a care taker. You take care of your family, extended family, livestock, and Mother Earth. It may be a non-paying job but the rewards are wonderful. There is nothing I would go back and change except for radios and cell phones in machinery! When you are out in a field, you spend many hours reflecting on your whole life, and I love it.
You knew this was coming…… What’s your biggest imperfection on the job?
I wish for more patience. It would be nice someday to finish a job before having to stop and run to help somebody move machinery, hold a gate or do the Mom thing all the time. There are times I long for a very quiet day, someone saying “good job today”, or a nice smile when the meal is ready- instead of always talking about the next thing that needs to be done.