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Female farmers more than wives

by Don Curlee


Posted on Thursday July 26, 2018, 12:37 pm


Women in the farm community are more vocal than they have been traditionally, and that is bringing new attention and respect for agriculture and its ways.

They are working in groups, as individuals, and through at least one national organization which includes several state-level units. None of the state units has as much of a battle with politicians and state government as the women in California do, but all are seriously vocal and consistently determined.

These contingents of women with farm backgrounds extend well beyond farm wives for membership. Students at all levels who have farm backgrounds are often challenged to speak up for their style of upbringing and their natural appreciation for food production. Often they respond to distorted views of farming held by other students or to disparaging messages from off-the-wall professors.

The national movement took root as the 1960s gave way to the ‘70s. The ugly side of organized labor was attracting nationwide attention by the boycotting of certain California food products and the threatening of field workers who rejected the union pitch. Many farm women, particularly in Midwestern states were incensed and offended.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, both significant agricultural areas, women began talking together about what they perceived as organized labor’s injustices to farm workers, and its commitment to disrupting farm production and food distribution. A delegation, including a soft-spoken but outspoken nun, visited the hotbed of labor dissension that was Delano.

From that visit and its interviews of farmers and others touched by the labor unrest came the framework of a new organization with the straightforward name of American Agri-Women. It has grown steadily since. The California contingent established itself as California Women for Agriculture. Members and potential members were encouraged to become vocal in their support of agriculture, to share a common-sense view of the issues important to agriculture and those who were part of it.

Today, both the national organization and California Women for Agriculture have the experience of several campaigns in behalf of farming and farm interests under their belts. They have met repeatedly with legislators at the state and national levels to clarify issues of importance to the farm community. They have made extensive plans to continue as agricultural advocates, speaking out at legislative levels and wherever the opportunity arises.

Women with farm backgrounds are expressing the agriculturally intense message in other ways. Several of the associations of farmers in California are led by women who grew up on farms, and now display an understanding of agriculture’s importance in their day-to-day work..

More and more students at secondary levels as well as those at colleges and universities are making people aware of the irrevocable commitment they have to agriculture. Their enthusiasm for agriculture, its products and its people is infectious

Though it surprises some, women are farming on their own as well. Their male counterparts don’t dare make disparaging remarks about their tractor-driving abilities or whether their hands are callused or their boots are dusty. Farming accepts them, and it needs them.

Those T-shirt slogans may have to be expanded. The one about taking a farmer to lunch: he grew the food might need to specify that she grew the food. And the one about my job depending on agriculture might be edited to read: my job is agriculture.

On the farm or on the microphone at a public meeting or hearing, farm women’s voices are being heard. They are making the harmony of agriculture’s message sweeter and more appealing to a larger number of the world’s citizens and consumers.