Editor's note: The following column appears in the July 2014 issue of Dairy Herd Management.
The romantic notion of the farmwife life I wanted started with my grandma, the neighbor ladies, and small-town idealism. The goal was simple; settle down, marry a dairy farmer, and then spend my days baking pies, raising babies, and farming alongside my husband in the rural Midwest. While some tasks remain the same, the definition of the word “farmwife” bears stark differences between my generation and the generations before us.
I am proud to call myself a farmwife. My husband Nate and I milk 175 cows in the rolling hills of Southern Wisconsin. I also hold a full-time job as a sire analyst with Genex — a career that keeps me on the road as much as I am in our farmhouse office.
Before we had our daughter, I was able to help with everything that took place on the farm once I turned the computer off. Now, with a little one in the picture, I can’t get to the milking parlor as much as I used to. We are blessed to have two employees in addition to my husband and fatherin- law. Therefore, luckily, I am not relied upon for the daily tasks like milking and feeding. This provides us the luxury of not having to schlep the baby out for chores in the -30°F Wisconsin weather. Though I struggle with my withdrawal from the day-to-day operations on our farm, I truly love my job and the work that I do. I find comfort knowing that there are many other farmwives out there like me, who chose to keep a career in addition to working on the farm.
Working off-farm can be for financial reasons, there being no need for another full-time employee, or perhaps a woman’s passion lies with her career. Whatever the reason, we are a busy breed! Also, the farmwife is no longer tied to the traditional roles of childcare provider, cooking and farm work. We are businesswomen, bookkeepers, chefs, gardeners, calf feeders, bill payers, heat detectors, milkers, maids, feed mixers, calf pullers, first-aid givers, computer technicians, mothers and wives.
In one day, I could breed our heifers, order semen, visit my Genex clients, get groceries, pull a calf, weed the garden, register calves, drop off and pick up the baby from daycare, and end the day with a home-cooked supper or run food out to the field for the midnight hay crew. My best friend, another farmwife, was appointed the software and computer guru for her family’s cropping operation. She handles precision farming information and bookkeeping, because the men in the picture are technologically challenged. That’s something Grandma and the neighbor ladies never would have fathomed!
Some things haven’t changed. I enjoy gardening, canning, and swapping recipes (over email or Facebook) with my neighbor farmwives. My hands are rough and calloused, I scold the men for driving the skidsteer on my lawn, and I always make sure to pack a lunch and smear my husband down with sunscreen before he heads out for an afternoon of fencing.
It’s a hectic lifestyle, but ever so gratifying. I have the utmost respect for the rest of the women out there in the trenches. We are the glue that holds everything together and ringmasters of farm life chaos.