I’m slated to speak at a women’s Ag Day this fall, and in my research for the presentation, I’ve come across some pretty interesting blog posts featuring women professionals in the agricultural field. While typically a man’s world, the share of U.S. farms operated by women has nearly tripled in the last three decades, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture.
However, despite the advancements women have enjoyed in finding career success in agriculture, I was stunned recently when I stumbled upon an online comment written by a farmer’s wife who was upset when a sales pitch to her husband was presented by a woman seed salesperson in the close quarters of a combine during harvest season. The wife admitted she was jealous of the saleswoman and many were quick to criticize this female agricultural professional for not setting up an appointment in an office setting.
The reality is that during this time of year, if someone needs to get in touch with a farmer, he’s not going to park the tractor or combine to visit when there is work to be done. I was flabbergasted to see this salesperson get blasted on social media and couldn’t believe the hurtful things folks would say about a woman who was simply trying to do her job. Without question, women in agriculture have come a long way since the days where we were expected to keep house, raise babies and not have an opinion on how the ranch was run, and it seems like this conversation was almost archaic in its tone and topic.
The comments that ensued on both sides of this topic have been very heated, but I think blogger and Missouri farmer, Kate Lambert, says it best in her blog post titled, “To the woman riding in my husband’s combine.”
Here is an excerpt: “As a Millennial, this is the first time I have encountered such a vigorous and outward attack on a woman for doing her job. I want you to know this. When you come to my farm, to call on my husband – you are welcome to climb right up into the cab of his combine. You are welcome to ride along, give him your sales pitch or gather your information.
“I know when you get up in the morning you will stress over what to wear. Too dressy and you look clueless. Too casual and you look unprofessional. I know when you set foot on the farm you’ll be nervous about the farmers taking you seriously. I know you’ll struggle with being able to connect on a personal level, while not getting too personal. You aren’t as free to joke and laugh with customers as the male competition is.
“I know when you climb into the cab with my husband you are going to be nervous about getting your sales pitch right – about showing that you understand the farm and the industry. I also know that you probably understand it better than the men in your role. I know you already had to prove yourself beyond them, to the men that you work for. I know you are working your tail off, in an industry you love, that generally views you as less competent. I know you face challenges every single day and I want you to know – as a fellow woman I will not be another challenge for you.”
Not only do I think women belong in agriculture just as much as men, but I also love to see when all of us in agriculture — man or woman — lift each other up, instead of spending our energy bashing one another. This includes setting aside political differences in opposing cattlemen’s organizations and working together for the greater good — not being too proud and too stubborn to look beyond past issues and do what is best for the industry.
Instead of bashing one another, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few positive items pertaining to women in agriculture. Here are four worth checking out today:
1. “Women are the past, present and future of agriculture” by USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden
2. “These women are taking selfies to show how they harvest like a boss” featured on BuzzFeed
Use the tag #WomenofHarvest15 and post photos of the women you know who are hard at work during harvest and weaning season. Check out this new social media campaign here.
3. “Confessions of a Farm Wife” by Holly Spangler for Farm Progress
If you haven’t checked out this podcast, I encourage you to have a listen. Click here to access the most recent podcast featuring the thoughts of Spangler, DeAnna Thomas and Emily Webel.
4. “65 photos that celebrate cowgirls and cattlewomen” featured on BEEF
From the BEEF archives, here is a photo gallery featuring hard-working cowgirls, cattlewomen, moms, grandmas and women in agriculture.
Do you think it was OK for a female sales rep to sit in the combine with her male customer? Was the wife justified to be upset? Why do you think the industry gets hung up on such petty things like this? Do you know any successful women in agriculture? What sets them apart from the rest? Tell me your stories in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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