A few weeks ago, I was honored to be named as a finalist for the first annual Dakotafest Women Farmer and Rancher of the Year Award. Although I didn’t win the award, it was inspiring to be surrounded by a group of women who are obviously valued by their families and their peers in agriculture.
Meet this year’s winner of the Dakotafest Women Farmer/Rancher of the Year, Cathy Eichacker of Eichacker Simmentals in Salem, S.D., and you’ll get an idea of the high caliber women I’m talking about.
From volunteering and community service work, to adding value on the farm or ranch through developing branded meat programs or marketing seedstock cattle, to homeschooling their young children, to starting each day with prayer and a walk on the gravel road, these female nominees are truly salt of the earth people.
And you know, sometimes it’s nice to get that recognition for your hard work and dedication to the farm. However, for these ladies, I know the real reward comes in the legacy built on the ranch and the family relationships that are developed by generations working alongside each other every single day.
Farming and ranching isn’t an easy life. If it was, everybody would do it. There is unimaginable pressure and risk involved when you’re raising livestock and working the land. Mother Nature throws us curve balls. The markets seem to never swing in our favor. Consolidation continues to squeeze the little guy out. Input costs continue to rise, and margins are razor thin. The learning curve is steep, and mistakes can be costly or deadly.
The physical and emotional toll is huge. The strain on relationships can be great. The weight of the risk, the loss or the never-ending stress can be heavy.
And on the bad days, you wonder — is this lifestyle worth the toll? Is the price too great?
It’s in those bad moments where the value of women in agriculture truly reveals itself.
- She’s the one who can tend to the calf when it needs extra care.
- She’s the one who can find missing hats and mittens to wear on cold blizzard days.
- She’s the one who can have a crockpot of soup simmering, waiting to warm bellies after doing chores in the freezing cold.
- She’s the one who can put band aids on scraped knees.
- She’s the one who can wipe away tears when the cattle dog goes to doggie heaven.
- She’s the one who has an eye for the best bull at the sale.
- She’s the one who sees the error on the sale catalog before it’s printed.
- She’s the one who brings in the off-farm income to pay the bills when cash flow gets tight.
- She’s the one who keeps that job in town for the health insurance, which comes in handy when raising rough and rowdy kids on the ranch.
- She’s the one who guides her family with grace and instills a strong faith to carry you through the hard days.
- She's the one who lays out the outfits for Sunday church, gets the kids dressed and loaded in the car for Mass. And she remains flexible when plans go out the window because the cattle got out on the road.
And she’s the one who does countless other small and menial tasks, but when stacked all together, it shows that she’s worth her weight in gold and then some.
In these modern times, I don’t necessarily believe our identities should be wrapped around whether we are male or female. On our ranch, my husband and I are a team. We have our roles, and we each work hard to keep our business and our family schedules running smoothly.
Yet, every once in a while, I think it’s nice to give a nod to the hard-working ladies who quietly, and often without recognition, juggle a lot of tasks in a day and make it look easy.
Cheers to you, my fellow ranch women. If you’re grateful for the women in your life, share this blog with them today and give them a hug and a thank you, too!
It’s not necessary. It’s not mandatory. But it sure is nice to feel appreciated once in a while. I bet if you call up the matriarch of the ranch and tell her you love her today, it will sure bring a smile to her face.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.