Wednesday, August 10, 2011

But You Don't Look Like a Farmer!

This was Farmer Image 101.

As I sat with a group of moms, city moms...moms who were attorneys and PR reps and television producers...I was met with shocked looks when I explained where I lived and what we did.

But you don't look like a farmer!

What do you wear?

You look...trendy!

Thank goodness! My belt and stacked wedges paid off!!!

Fashion aside, these moms were in this little cafe in Chicago to learn more about people like me, and were absolutely floored that I didn't show up in bib overalls and a goofy straw hat.

This is Farmer Image 101.

What a great opportunity. Along with Deb Moore (a fellow beef and corn and soybean producer's wife), Donna Jeschke (our friend Stephen's mom and a true farm, drives the combine farm wife!!), and Holly Spangler (my partner in crime on this road trip! Read her blog here...she's amazing), we stood in front of nearly 40 city moms, sat with them in a round table discussion, and listened to them in a comfy, mom and kid-friendly environment. Even though we had to put out fires and preconceived notions that they had gathered from watching movies such as King Corn and Food, Inc., had to explain to them why we use seeds that have been modified to withstand the elements, and laughed as we took compliments about how nice and trendy and fun we were, these moms were here to learn. They were hungry for information on the producers who help produce their food and fuel. They had legitimate concerns about what they purchased as groceries because they didn't have freezers full of beef and pork and sweetcorn. How could they? One woman commented that her groceries were delivered for the simple fact that she couldn't carry them up the three flights of steps, all the while toting her young son.

I never thought of that.

And I thought a detached garage was inconvenient.

Regardless of how we tote our groceries, where we raise our kids, and whether we hop into a taxi cab or a tractor cab to head to work, we all were hoping for the same thing that night: to understand each other. As moms, our language was the same, but after that night, I left with the perspective that our lives, although seemingly different, are intertwined. I, along with the three other ladies there that night, hope that when they think of grain farmers or beef producers or American/Illinois agriculture they see my face instead of what they see online or on television.

My hope is that we're not reinforcing the stereotype they already have formed, just as my stereotype of city moms who weren't going to hear what I had to say, already had opinions, and didn't want anything to do with me came crashing down that night. Now, there were moments when comments were made and questions were asked that were way off base, but my hope is that we answered them in a way that didn't make them feel ignorant or silly. My hope is that we were able to find common ground and explain why we do what we do.

My hope is that we were able to convey that what we do is all for the good of the land, as well as for the ability to send our kids to college.

My hope is that we were good ambassadors of agriculture to these fine women.

Ambassadors in great shoes!


  1. I wrote a blog about this too! I think the line I used was "Just because you where a sundress 80% of the year doesn't mean you don't know something about cattle, soil and agriculture."

    Now we need a picture of these shoes!

  2. Love, love this blog! The Nebraska CommonGround women are working on this "farmer image" too!


  3. I'm so happy you got the opportunity to talk with a group of city moms! It sounds like it was beneficial for both groups!

    Oh - and glad you wore fantastic shoes and were able to break down that farmers wear overalls stereotype!

  4. Thanks for coming all the way to Chicago; it was nice to meet you ladies! I didn't know you were from Farmington; I went to college in Peoria and that area feels like home to me. Having grown up in the middle corn field {north of Peoria}, I have to say that I was really hoping to meet farmers like the ones I'd grown up with. Ones who connected and cared about the land. I'm looking forward to learning more about all of the wives from the farms represented.

  5. very cool! its amazing how people react when you tell them what you do and how you love your lively hood. even though its not glamourous and high paying.. great job!

  6. It was great meeting you! I learned so much about the industry and I'm excited to learn more!

  7. Hi, Emily. I just found your blog today and I have to say, you are kind of an inspiration for me. My husband's family has a small (very small) corn farm near DeKalb and this year, because of some unpleasantness with my father-in-law's health, my husband had to take care of all the planting. After that, he realized (though I suspect he always knew it) that farming is all he wants to do.

    I'm not a farm wife. I have never wanted to be a farm wife. I'm not going to learn how to drive the tractor or load the seed hoppers on the planter (I just learned what seed hoppers were this year).

    I know you're busy, but is there any advice you can give me to make this the transition, when it comes, easier?


  8. I know it's been a month since the meetup, but I just dropped by your blog for the first time! (I'm the teacher who orders Peapod deliveries :) Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed talking with you at the cafe. I'm not the greatest at talking to strangers, so I was grateful that you just jumped in and introduced yourself--thank you for breaking the ice. Regardless of whether I get picked as a Field Mom, I plan to keep following all the action down on the farm!


  9. Just found your blog! Love the post!

  10. Great post. It's important for all of us to remember that behind that stereotype (any stereotype) is a real, live person...and individual.

    -The Spinsterlicious Life

  11. I like this. I'm uneasy about stereotypes in general, and I think it's wonderful that you so successfully defied this one. I also love the idea of discussing food politics with actual authentic food producers, without the media distortion. Great post!