Running the Headgate and a Household

Yesterday morning, I ran across what appeared to be a harmless list about the most favorable qualities in a farm wife from a popular agriculture newspaper. I was wrong – it wasn’t harmless. In fact, the article left me shocked and speechless. I can’t muster a sufficient description of how off-the-charts ticked off I was, so you’ll just have to believe me that I was boiling mad. And let’s make no bones about it, I was mad, not offended. This is not about being offended. Anyone who has ever met me in real life, or online, knows that I am very blunt, straight-forward and thick-skinned; I’m not easily offended, to say the least. Nor is this about the phrase “farm wife.” True, I prefer to be called a “rancher” over “ranch wife” but other bloggers have covered that topic sufficiently so I don’t think my commentary is necessary. My comments and frustration lie in the fact that readers will see the article in question and think “Ok, well this guy wrote this ‘satirical’ piece and everyone is ok with it so I’ll write one too.” No. It’s not ok.

The problem with the article is not that it doesn’t appreciate women. It does. The problem is that it completely ignores massive contributions that women make to American agriculture while diminishing our value to simply “reheating late suppers” and keeping seed hats clean. This article could have been a huge success by lauding the daily struggle that farmHERs and rancHERs (because we aren’t just wives) manage while raising a family and pulling their own weight on the farm or ranch. The author very easily could have said “She can sort cows, put out mineral, help the kids with their homework and have supper on the table by 8 pm” and that would have been freaking awesome. I am a good cook and I keep a clean house but I also deal with mean cows, hay season and squirrely calves. But the author chose to act as if we are still in 1952. I cannot believe that the value of a woman (satirical or not) is still, in 2016, being placed on her ability to cook, clean and rear children. I mean for cripes sake, a woman will quite likely be in the White House next year.

For example, the author could have highlighted that there are 969,672 female farm operators in the U.S. which account for 30% of farm operators in the United States. Of that 969,672, nearly 290,000 are the principal operators.* Meaning those women call all the shots and answer to no one. Take note, female farmers and ranchers are not a small contingency.

A rancher feeds a calf a bottle of milk replacer
Just fixin supper

Or, the author could have spoken about how female farmers and ranchers sold nearly $13 billion in agricultural products, including $6 billion in crop sales and $6.9 billion in livestock sales in 2012.* About 1/4 of women farmers specialized in combination crop farming, meaning they raised more than one ag product, and the next largest sector was beef cattle farming and ranching.* These are not small ventures, folks.

The blatant disregard for the role that women play in building and maintaining an operation while building and supporting a family flies in the face of a progressive America. I’m not Michelle Obama but I don’t have to be to know that if we build tenacious women, our families, workforce and nation become stronger as a whole. I know so many women who put in just as many or more hours than their spouses on the farm or ranch, and many of them are also the head honcho of raising the family.

I am pro-woman — that does not mean I am anti-man. You can be pro-something without tearing down the other side, in this case the male gender, and I am not tearing down men. Feminism is believing that women deserve what men have had for thousands of years. I will not stop standing up for women, especially women in ag, because as my aunt Cheryl told me recently “A lot of us old ladies fought very hard for equality and it’s important to keep up the fight.” It’s up to my generation to continue this journey and I plan to do so by raising my future daughter(s) to stand up and be heard. My time, money, blood, sweat and tears are invested in our ranch and I won’t be diminished to the antiquated view of a perfect wife.

In closing, I want to make it clear that I’m not asking for the article to be taken down or edited. I’m also not asking for the author’s or editor’s heads on a platter – I DO NOT WANT hordes of people bombarding the social media outlets of this publication lambasting the author or the editor so PLEASE DON’T DO THAT**. I’m asking for more thought to be given to what is viewed as “satirical” and what is viewed as funny because there is a big difference. I’m asking for us as a society to not settle for the status quo and to stop letting things like this roll off our backs. I’m asking for more women, and men, to stand up and say “This wouldn’t be acceptable if the shoe was on the other foot.”

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

* Figures taken from 2012 U.S. Agriculture Census

** I cannot stress enough that I do not want multitudes of people attacking this news outlet or its staff so please, just don’t. That’s not the point or the goal. Many thanks.

Feel free to sign up for email notifications of new posts and don’t miss a beat – right up there in the right hand column!



20 responses to “Running the Headgate and a Household”

  1. My thoughts exactly. Very well written.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you Shelly! I appreciate you reading and hope you’ll come back again! Women in ag have to stick together (well, all women actually)!

  2. Well said, Brandi. My husband and I are a team–we are husband and wife, but both are ranchers. I saw the essay you referenced, and I didn’t think it was funny. Stupid and old fashioned. Definitely not funny. Keep up the great work, Brandi!

    1. Avatar

      Thanks, Debbie! I appreciate your support and kind words so very much – means the world. You’re one of those strong female role models I look up to only from a ranching standpoint but from a family standpoint as well.

  3. Kelly Rivard Avatar
    Kelly Rivard

    I am so freaking proud to call you a friend.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you dear, you know I feel the same way. Thanks for your support and letting me bounce ideas off you! And obviously, thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Great post, and hopefully a reminder to those who still need it. It’s 2016, and women play critically important and diverse roles on our farms. We need to embrace this world where gender has little/nothing to do with our roles in the workplace, including within agriculture.

    Here’s a link to a blog post about women in ag written by my CEO, who happens to be an awesome female leader in the ag marketing space:

    1. Avatar

      Hi Jeff – thanks for sharing that great piece. I agree wholeheartedly – leaving us (women) out of the conversation does nothing but hurt brands and businesses. Thanks for being a breath of fresh air and for reading the blog! I am bookmarking the article you shared with me for future reference!

  5. Very well said!! My husband and I are a team. I do do the house, meals & kids but I can also do everything else on the farm as well and have at various times over the years. This life isn’t for everyone but I wouldn’t give it up for the world! Also very proud that the third generation of our family, my son, has decided to farm!

    1. Avatar

      More power to you! It’s not about having a defined role, it’s about the ability to contribute in many different ways, as so many of us do! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. While I am not married, not living on a ranch, I see the balance the demand that my friends that are living the lifestyle deal with daily.

    Great post Brandi!

    1. Avatar

      This isn’t an issue that only affects married women – it affects every woman who struggles for respect in her profession (in all industries) and I’m glad to see that we can all be united together. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. You articulated, quite nicely, what I couldn’t put into words. Thanks!

    1. Avatar

      Thanks for your support and for reading!

  8. Lexi Marek Avatar
    Lexi Marek

    Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for covering this important topic so well!

    1. Avatar

      Thanks Lexi! Appreciate the support!

  9. Fawna Henke Avatar
    Fawna Henke

    I agree wholeheartedly. I am the sole proprietor of my ranch. I’ve worked very hard to get there. It’s hard now that I have a significant other that it is assumed he is the head honcho. It all happened before he got here. I truly appreciate all he does and welcome him to the daily grind, but it’s hurtful that some people assume that I, a woman, didn’t build this. Well written.

    1. Avatar

      I saw somewhere else this quote: “A woman has to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as a man.” I agree with that but also think it’s frustrating! I can understand how it would be hurtful to you that your entire operation’s credit is given to someone who didn’t earn it. I write for you – for all of us. Keep fighting and thanks for reading 🙂

  10. Jerilyn Avatar

    The author of Farm Talk’s Top 10 does not deserve this overblown criticism. Anyone who knows Mr. Parker will tell you he is a talented, creative and fair ag journalist with a long record of service to agriculture and the women and men who work in this great industry. Parker was responsible for mentoring me and many other young women, back when we were breaking new barriers in ag journalism and the ag industry in the early 1980s. He helped me gain confidence in my role and I soon found my voice. I went on to work at several farm and beef industry publications, including becoming the first woman editor of Beef Today magazine. Throughout my ag journalism career, and now in my role as managing partner on a Missouri farm, Parker has continued to encourage me and ask for my advice on industry issues and trends. I hope you have read his follow-up column this week and will soon realize that the “Above & Beyond Farm Wife Qualities” column was never written to disrespect the modern farm/ranch woman.

    1. Avatar

      Thanks for weighing in Jerilyn. I think it’s worth noting that I never called Mr. Parker sexist, called for him to step down, asked for an apology, asked for a retraction etc. I don’t mention his name or even link to the article. What I very clearly asked for was for people, men and women, to think more clearly about these topics before calling them “funny” or “satirical.” I have no doubts that Mr. Parker has had a positive impact on ag for three decades, and I am certain I didn’t lambast his career. While he may have many shining moments, everyone makes mistakes – which is why I clearly encouraged people *not* to contact him or the newspaper staff because that is not the point.

      What is worth noting however, is that Mr. Parker and his supporters very much feel as if myself and thousands of other people of a similar mindset, should just let this one slide or let it roll off our backs. That is to say, we should not be so easily offended. The irony in that is now that Mr. Parker has received criticism and is essentially, offended, he is choosing not to let it roll off his back and is instead leaving. There’s a word for that.

      Writers, journalists, bloggers and communicators must all learn to take criticism. I am taking heat for my words, and I am fine with that. But I also will not stop speaking up, specifically for women, because of such criticism.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion, I hope you’ll come back for more thought-provoking commentary in the future.