Picture this. The year is 1865. The location is a small farm in southern Norway. Anne and her husband report their assets for the census: 1 ½ bushels of potatoes, 1/4 bushel of oats, 1/8 bushel of barley, 2 head of cattle, and 3 sheep. Two years later the couple leaves their little farm, their families, and the grave of a baby girl to sail on a ship to America with their 10 year old daughter, my great great grandmother. After arriving they travel to central Minnesota where they break ground and create a farm out of prairie. Nine years later, one year after her daughter marries, Anne passes away at the age of 52. That may be all we know of Anne’s story however it isn’t difficult to fill in the details with hours of back breaking work, crop and livestock loss, celebrating small victories, battling feelings of fear, despair and loneliness, overcoming illness, and always feeling hope for the next season.
Our farm families are in the midst of difficult times. USA Today noted “Nationwide, net farm income has fallen by more than half since 2013, and it’s expected to drop another 6.7% this year — to the lowest level since 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture.” Many are wondering if they will be able to hang on for another year to the life and land that generations before them worked to establish.
At the very heart of these farm and ranching families are the women. Women who have all too often been relegated to checked boxes of homemaker, housekeeper, Mrs. (Insert husband’s name), general farm labor, or most unthinkable – unemployed. These are women with knowledge and skills in the areas of business, accounting, veterinary science, agronomy, construction, human resources, nutrition, child development, and so much more although they often consider themselves unqualified for employment off the farm.
These are women who wake up every morning with tasks already laid out before them knowing that much of their success and accomplishment lies wholly in the hands of factors outside of their control: weather, commodity prices, world markets, interest rates. It is that reality that drives them to faith in a higher power with unceasing requests to protect and provide knowing that it lies in His hands.
These are women who go from barn and pasture to professional office, from tractor to church, from garden to girls spa day, from nursing a dying calf to volunteering at the school parents’ night. They are lions and lambs. Anchors and sails. Grounded and free and full of emotion with the fortitude of past generations to carry them forward.
To all farm women out there taking care of your families, your farms, your careers, your churches, your communities…we see you, we honor you, we value you.