“So…where are the men?”
“So, on your husband’s farm…”
“So, there’s no men on the farm?”
Those awkward questions that start with “So…” are certain to lead to poking and prodding into some aspect of our farm that isn’t “normal,” or “usual,” or whatever you’d like to call it.
“So…it’s just you, your sister, and your mom?”
Yes, that’s right, and usually one or two summer college interns. Sometimes we get neighbor help for a few of the big jobs (making hay, butchering chickens) but the bulk, the grunt, the everyday, and yes even driving tractor—that’s us. Three women, all under 5’5”.
“So…you’re not married yet?”
I’ve been confronted with variations on the “So where are all the men?” question so frequently that I’m tempted to fib and say that we keep them in a closet and bring them out when we need them! But that might seem a bit crude, so I just keep smiling and explain that this is a farm run by Girl Power.
Now, for us, Girl Power certainly doesn’t mean romping about the farm in short, frilly skirts with cowboy boots and a furry pink hat. If you’ve run into us on a hard-working farm day (like Mondays), we’re usually be-mudded in the garden, tools in hand, or mucking the barn with our skid-steer and honeywagon. It’s elbow grease, “Get-er-done,” stick-through-it bootstrapping. Chase us around for a day on the farm, and maybe I won’t have to laugh off another comment like:
“So, how do you have all this food around and stay so thin?”
The truth is that Girl Power on the farm is nothing new. Women have been an integral part of agriculture since its inception, participating in the domestication of plants and animals, the building of homesteads, and the development of the idea of “the farm.” Why, then, does it seem odd today that ladies should be farmers?
It gets really disparaging when I’m asked, “So, does that make you a farmerette?”
One of my favorite quotes was given to us by our contractor, Jon, after seeing it on his calendar. It’s since faded and torn, the author unknown, but the phrase is still cherished. “A woman who can drive tractor is someone to call in an emergency.” Yes, that’s right, we can handle the bumps and hiccups, the sleepless nights lambing or hatching chicks, the chore nights in the rain and the wind and the cold, the mud and the grime and the cleaning…cleaning…cleaning.
“Women actually make the best beekeepers,” my mentor Mr. Rowe has remarked on several occasions. “They’re less hurried and more gentle with the bees—careful—which makes a big difference to the queen.”
Someday, I’ll rejoice when the florescent-vested fellows at the fleet store refrain from, “So what kind of oil did he want?” Please! I know this is the Northwoods, but really? They’ll catch on sometime.