From Where I Sit – A Salute to Farm Women

Write about the typical farm wife I tell myself. Take the many hats angle. Go for humor. Make light of the multi-function roles women play. Throw in a few horror stories.

Why not? I’m living the life, how hard can it be?

It wasn’t quite the cinch I’d expected. Because we sold our herd the fall before the big drought, I didn’t have first hand BSE or calving horror stories. Without our store, I no longer hear the day-to-day complaints or success stories that came with contact with farm-women of all ages.

However my biggest hurdle turned out to be one of attitude. At this moment I don’t feel particularly hopeful about agriculture. Things are way past the funny stage. It’s down-right scary out there and frankly I can’t fake it. So here goes.

In the category of unsung heroes my admiration goes out to farm-women everywhere. In what has traditionally been a tough way to earn a living a new level of despair is emerging.

Even in 2004 women are more likely to be in a support role than actually heading up a farm operation. This may be a good thing. In these trying times it will take the strength, support, ingenuity and luck of many just to survive.

The litany of extraordinary challenges–the continuing drought, BSE, avian flu–has further battered farm families already beaten down by old foes like low commodity prices, high input costs, weather and market uncertainty. Bankruptcies, auction sales, suicide, addictions, and interpersonal problems are an unspoken result.

Through it all, in many families, women continue to provide the grounding and rudder required to steer through these treacherous waters. Let’s have a closer look at what makes a farm-woman unique.

She is a wife, life partner, friend, lover and confidant to the man in her life. Unfortunately today’s pillow talk is likely to be anguished whispers about what to do next.

She’s also a mother with all the ensuing roles: homework coach, chauffeur, laundress, cook, referee, advice-giver.

Increasingly she’s also engaged in off-farm work as either a primary or secondary bread-winner. The extra income may make the difference between making it or not.

Whether she works off-farm or has found a way to earn extra money with farm-based diversification, she’s not off the hook for helping with all the regular tasks. She still does the majority of the shopping, meal preparation, cleaning, parenting, gardening, and bookkeeping. In addition she runs errands for repairs, grain testing, whatever needs doing. She bales, combines, hauls grain, and shuttles people and vehicles to wherever they need to be. She’s midwife for problem births. Those are the tangibles.

Harder to articulate are the intangibles she brings to the family: the optimism, patience, laughter, wisdom, faith, belief and strength. She deserves the credit for holding the family together and morphing into whatever it is that anyone needs at any given moment. She is amazing, from where I sit.

*Reprinted with permission