‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman who wants to own a farm, must be in want of a husband…’
Well, sod that for a game of soldiers.
A few months ago I was watching a TV programme on farming, where they discussed how women do not usually inherit farms from their parents if they have male relatives because tradition vows it must be passed on to the men in the family. They then described how it would normally be down to the daughters to find a farmer to marry if they wished to remain in farming. Yes this is happening, even in 2018. This episode featured a woman, who although had worked for years on her parent’s farm and had been a strong influence on the success of their herd, was essentially told she would be ‘booted off’ her family home once the eldest son took over the running of the business. Instead of marrying a farmer however, as history would infer, she sought her own farm tenancy and started her own herd. And the best bit, it was just next door to her family farm. A proper one finger salute to such an outdated and sexist method of inheritance.
It struck me after watching this episode that this clearly was not a one-off situation and actually a common occurrence in the farming world. I thought back to before I had acquired a farm, ‘Did marrying a farmer, cross my mind?‘, ‘Did I look at my mechanic boyfriend and wonder if I should trade him in?‘, ‘Did I think the only way to join the industry was to marry into it?‘. I admit, when I was struggling to find land a few years ago I did wonder if it was impossible to become a first generation farmer and I wondered if the only way to work in agriculture was to be born into it, or marry into it. Not once did I think though, that this was how I was going to acquire my farm and once I had met fellow female farmers who had gone it alone, I knew for certain becoming a farmer’s wife was not going to be my doorway to farming.
In true Jane Austen style, I proclaimed… ‘No, I’m only marrying for love!’
So I struggled on and ended up finding a farm by myself and running it by myself (with a little help from friends along the way of course). Little did I realise that I would then have to worry about the sexism that comes along with owning a farm and also being in possession of a vagina.
It was the title ‘farmer’s wife‘ that caused me the most upset at the start. It wasn’t until I entered the industry that I fully realised how this title can be used in a degrading manner. Firstly, you have the hardworking farmer’s wives out there who happily accept the job and title but get accused of living the easy life – sitting at home, baking cakes and making jam, while their husbands’ tend to the land and do all the ‘proper farming‘. Then you get the female farmers who haven’t married a farmer but have built and run their farm by themselves (me), only to be faced with the b*****d ‘where’s the farmer?’ question every time you get a delivery because you’re surely just the farmer’s wife. Both types of women work hard and are key players in the industry, yet both are faced with the immediate judgement that they’re not really farmers because they’re female. Ugh, hello people of 2018, if women want to be farmers they bloody well can be.
This drove me wild at the start, my partner was great with it though, whenever someone would start talking to him instead of me about the farm he’d shrug and go ‘no idea mate I work with cars, she’s the farmer…‘ only for them to turn around to face a stand-offish me in front of them. I must say the large majority of people are fine about it and I have managed to turn a lot of folk around once they see what I am doing or they talk to me and realise that I am doing ‘real farming‘… whatever that is… But there are still the stubborn ones who assume that if a women is farming it is because of who she married rather than how hard she worked and I just cannot understand why, in this industry in particular, this still seems to reside in some people’s opinions.
It was fellow farmers who I seemed to have the most trouble with, they’d ask me if my husband would be picking the livestock up or if my husband was available to talk to. It would infuriate me, ‘Why can’t you talk to me?’ ‘Why can’t I do it?‘ I used to think. Instead of getting ground down by what seemed like a constant battle to make them see that I was the farmer I just decided to get on with it and prove that a woman is just as capable of running a farm as a man. I think a lot of folks round here really stood up and took notice when my partner and I split and I truly was alone on the farm, then they thought I would crumble and pack it all in. Well 8 months later, I am still here, still running the farm and last time I checked I am also still a woman.
With International Women’s Day 2018 coming up this week (March 8th), I think it is about time that we put this notion to bed and we say ‘yes I chose the farming life but no I am not a farmer’s wife. I am a farmer!’
And if you get any sh*t, either send them my way or remind them of the Women’s Land Army. That usually shuts them up.