One of my favorite questions in our ‘trivia deck’ for our ring toss game at Farm Bureau Park during the Iowa State Fair was, “True or False: Only boys can be farmers.” Although all the pictures on this question card were of men or boys on the farm, kids younger than six all knew the answer, “There are girls who are farmers!”
You’re totally correct, kiddo.
In fact, per the USDA, 25 percent of farmers in Iowa are women. Here at Iowa Farm Bureau, we’re proud to say that 45 percent of our local county Farm Bureau boards have women in leadership roles. There’s so many ways that women contribute to agriculture, and I’ve come to find that there’s no such thing as a small job on the farm.
Through Iowa State University Extension’s Women in Ag programs, I have learned a lot about agronomy, water quality, cattle operations and farm financials. So, being a huge supporter of these women-focused efforts, I was happy to do an on-camera testimonial for a video promoting these opportunities. As the media person from ISU Extension asked me questions about the programs, there was one that stumped me.
She said, what is your role on your family’s farm? I totally froze and thought, well, I guess I don’t really have one—my husband, Craig, and his dad are the real farmers.
On my way home after the interview, I got to thinking a bit more about my role on the farm. Yeah, it’s true, I don’t drive heavy equipment right now, and I don’t make the marketing decisions. Because I don’t have a regular role, I discounted the time I’ve put on the farm greasing up the tractor, loading seed corn in the planter and putting talc on the seed to keep it dry so kernels don’t stick together, removing big rocks from fields, adjusting the position of augers to dump corn in the semi or grain bin, driving a “pilot car” when Craig had to take the tractor and wagon on a main highway to get to the next field, and yes, I’ve even walked beans to get rid of a few weeds that slipped by the sprayer earlier this summer. (When someone says they lived in bean-walking days, respect that, it is tough work).
Despite my fear of heights, I’ve also climbed in a few grain bins to help level out corn to so there could be even airflow for the stored grain. Could they do it all without me? Well, they were doing it before I came along, but it feels good to help family get done a little quicker than before. Sometimes help also comes in the form of good company and snacks during long harvest days that turn into nights, and not complaining when Craig can’t take me out for my late October birthday. It’s also being there to say, we’ll get through this when things go awry like equipment breaking down or getting stuck in the mud.
Even women who aren’t involved directly on the farm but are taking care of the home and the kids while their husbands are in the field are providing incredible support for the farming operation.
So, true or false? Only boys can be farmers. The answer is false—women can be farmers, too. Or like me, they can find their place on the farm by lending an extra hand or a loving ear. There is no job insignificant for both the men and the women who make their family farms work, and that’s a lesson to be learned at any age.
By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau's public relations specialist.