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May 31, 2005

Real women farm

Did you know that Cheryl Rogowski is the first person to win a MacArthur genius award for farming?
Or that the number of female operated farms has doubled since 1978? Julia Moskin has an excellent article in today's NYT about how women are changing farming.

I admire farmers, especially because I come from a very short line of agrarian underachievers. If there had been a diagnosis of ADD in those days, most of my relatives surely would have qualified for simple lack of interest in their nominal vocation.

You see, some of my Norwegian ancestors believed that farming was easy, classy, and romantic. That's because they were book publishers who read somewhere that the Canadian government was giving away land. Predictably, they started daydreaming about the idyllic classless society they might built in a new world.

Careful what you wish for.

Long story short, my great grandfather spent his whole life as a farm procrastinator. That's a kind of avoidant virtuosity in its own right. As an occupation, farming is singularly inhospitable to those who put off anything they might do today at five a.m.

Family lore has it that great grandpa always had some reason not to farm this year. A gig as a government weed inspector? Great! A burgeoning practice as an amateur lawyer? Sure thing. Allegedly, it always sounded really persuasive when he explained it.

Luckily, Canada industrialized fast enough to get subsequent generations off the land.

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Comments

Weird. My Norwegian ancestors left the farm to move to Chicago to become book publishers.

OK, actually my great-grandfather Happy Harry ran a print shop. But the complete lack of parallels are confounding and astounding!

My father's mother ran a berry farm in the Ozarks --- a great-aunt was operating farm equipment in her 70s and 80s --- etc. etc. etc.

There are a lot of misconceptions about farm work and the people doing it. But it's always been my experience that husbands and wives work as teams, and that women might lack some of the sheer physical strength of men, but they can still bale hay and rassle a cow.

It's good to see the presence of women in agriculture get some notice. Long overdue, in fact.

For sure.

It always pissed me off that "farmer" and "farmer's wife" are separate idioms. On a family farm, a farmer's spouse is a farmer. It doesn't even matter who works in the fields and who tends to the farmhouse, etc. It's all farming.

Re "farmer" and Farmer's wife": probably something to blame on the census form constructors (&/or their role models).
Re.."You see, some of my Norwegian ancestors believed that farming was easy, classy, and romantic. That's because they were book publishers who read somewhere that the Canadian government was giving away land. Predictably, they started daydreaming about the idyllic classless society they might built in a new world.
Careful what you wish for..."
Oh, right... so, where does that leave the Doukhobors, sweetie? ^..^

"Agrarian underachiever?" Isn't that called a gardener?

Oh, right... so, where does that leave the Doukhobors, sweetie? ^..^

Much better farmers than my family. Though I'm sure they didn't find it easy or glamorous either!

Is "farmer's wife" an official category on the census form?

There's a stall in the Union Square market called "The Angry Farmer's Wife." I was charmed because the title was ambiguous: Wife of angry farmer? or Angry wife of farmer?

Neither farmer seemed especially angry to me, and they make good molasses cookies. I hope they're back this year.

What about Farmer's Daughter's?

Is it lucky that Canada industrialized so fast? The Peak Oil literature really laments the fact that we as a culture have lost our farming skills so quickly. If people like Deffeyes and Campbell are right, we're going to be in for a big surprise w.r.t our food supplies within the next 30 years or so. We'll all wish we were farmers then, and those women sure will be the lucky ones.

In such massive depressions, farmers are typically those who suffer the most; the peak oil depression, if it comes, will be even worse for them, because oil is an important ingredient of modern fertilizers.

What farmers? What farmers are left? Just the boutique farmers that sell at yuppie farmers markets in cities?

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