I was recently following a couple fairly active conversations in a group I am a member of, that focused on biases against Women working in Agriculture. I just couldn’t get on board with thinking about how bad it is – because I kept going back to thinking how much better it has become. At that time I already had a draft of this post done, and I have revised it a few times as I roll this situation around in my head. I am by no means making light of the struggles many women in the industry have gone through. I only want us to focus on the pride we should all take for our part in shaping the current landscape of acceptance.
So here is the draft I decided to publish. Quite honestly I don’t love it. But my goal was to talk about Connect sometime this fall and being in the middle of harvest my blogging time is minimal for some reason! I can only speak from my own experience, so please let me know what your thoughts are on this subject.
With the leaves turning color and the dust flying, harvest in Saskatchewan is in full swing. Now that the season is upon us I can’t help but reminisce about Tiffany Martinka and the hashtag she started last year with women of harvest 15 (#womenofharvest15). It coincided with a blog post I wrote titled ‘What Do You Do For a Living?’ that focused on convincing women to be proud to say they are a farmer. They were both included in a buzzfeed article titled; These Bad Ass Women Are Taking Selfies To Show How They Harvest Like a Boss. Contrary to how it may have come across to some people, neither of these things were an attempt to pat ourselves on the back. What they were, was a honest and heartfelt effort to bring awareness to some issues within the agriculture industry.
One of the issues many of us are trying to address is women underplaying the roles that they fill in agriculture, or the knowledge that they have. I know women that handle the finances, women that seed the crop, women that spray the pesticides, women that pull the calves, women that fix the machinery, women that work as grain buyers, in seed sales, and as agronomists. For me its not about feminism or sexism, it’s simply about pride. When I was pregnant with my first child my Step-Mother politely told me that I didn’t have to put ‘farming’ on the occupation line of my patient profile at the doctors office, and that I could put ‘self employed’ instead. Ladies, we should be proud of the roles we play and the contributions we make to agriculture in Canada. The industry needs us. Do not be afraid to show your confidence at work or to stand up and say ‘I am a farmer’.
As an industry I think we should celebrate how far we have come in acceptance of women. Most people don’t even blink when they see a female doing a job that used to be typically identified as a man’s. It honestly feels to me that agriculture as a whole is starting to understand that gender has no place in the conversation and women are encouraged as much as men. I found myself relating the situation to what Will Smith said in an interview with Steven Colbert a few weeks ago. When asked about racisim in the US he said (I’m paraphrasing here) I’m not going to get caught in the trap of talking about how bad it is because it’s not. It’s not as bad as it was 20 years ago and it’s certainly not as bad as it was 60 years ago. It’s by no means perfect, but maybe more acceptance will result if we focus on how far we have come. Years ago when I first got involved in my husbands family farm a women’s opinion was new, and definately out of the ordinary on this operation. I really struggled to find resources to help me learn more about the business and I felt very alone in my quest. These types of challenges certainly still exist but today we have many great resources to help such as FarmHer which shines a light on women in Ag through positive stories, imagery and now a TV series, or industry groups taking initiatives like this one (The Women of Real Pig Farming). There are also various Facebook groups that work to connect and encourage women in the industry: Ag Womens Network and Women In Ag or Saskatchewan Women In Ag and any Tuesday you can join in a Twitter chat called #AgChat to connect and learn from other farmers across the world. Don’t let a preconceived notion or someone else’s negative experience keep you away, if you are looking for a job to be passionate about agriculture is the ticket and if you are looking for support there are lots of us here.
My memory says that I communicated these ideas a bit more eloquently in last years post, but my website crashed shortly after and that particular blog was lost so I can’t be sure (my memory has been known to fail me before). Regardless, my original inspiration to write it was to help promote a new event called ‘Connect: Women in Agriculture’. The first of its kind (in my corner of the world), this event focuses on bringing the different women involved in agriculture together for a two day conference and promises to be jam packed with learning, networking, and fun. The second annual event will be held on Nov 2 & 3 in Saskatoon, SK and I highly recommend you go if you are a women involved in the agriculture industry at any level. Let’s connect and support each other! See this link for more information. There is also a Canadian conference called Advancing Women in Agriculture held in 2 locations. You can learn more about these events here. (Catch up on what you missed by following #AWCeast2016 and #AWNchat)
So I guess I’ll leave this post by saying what you should already know. Things have changed. Farmers don’t wear overalls and hold pitchforks anymore, sometimes they wear Silver jeans and lip gloss. You don’t have to list ‘farm wife’ on the occupation line at the doctors office and you can get that Ag degree and be kick ass at your job after you graduate. In my opinion, there has never been a better time to be a woman and to be involved in agriculture!
Happy Harvest to all the men and #womenofharvest16