Women in Farming

Here at Gateway Research Organization we just finished hosting our first Women in Farming Workshop in Thorhild. It was a great success and we had the opportunity to meet with so many wonderful women in our region as we spent a day learning and laughing together. I really want to encourage those that are just getting into farming, taking over a family farm, and even those that have been farming for years to step out and learn something new. Take time to find the humour in what you do and love every moment of it, even those moments when the truck has broken down in the middle of the pasture, you’ve lost your third set of gloves for the day and you have water overflowing from your trough because your float has broken. These are the moments that make the best stories, and even through all of the trials we have so much to be thankful for in agriculture. We each have our own unique story and the lessons learned are where the stories begin. With that in mind, here is my story:

As one of the few people in our area that are first generation on the farm, I was treated to a very steep learning curve when I met my husband. I would often ask things like, “well how do women do that” while watching him do things like fixing barbed wire fences, hauling and handling heavy square bales, moving large protein tubs, cutting high tensile wire, washing out trailers with water line from our troughs and above all, closing the notorious, big, bad, barbed wire gate.

Now if my husband is anything like most other farmers out there, he has ways of getting all of these things done. Ways that have worked perfectly well for him his entire life. Ways that require a strength that the average woman (or at least myself) just does not possess. Through trial and error I have found ways around most of these chores no thanks to good old Google. A while back I did try googling “women fencing tips”, I figured that there must be easier ways to get some of these things done. Imagine my surprise when the first couple of suggestions that came up were recipes! According to Google I had been going at this whole farming thing from the completely wrong direction. Here I was trying to do all of this hard work when really all that I needed to do was cook some decent meals for the men that would do it all for me!

Okay, realistically we all know that big, strong men don’t always just appear when we cook a meal. So how do we get around some of the more heavy duty chores as women, especially when your husband won’t buy you a tractor no matter how much begging, pleading and cooking that you do? Sometimes we just need to get a little more creative.

I have to say that my fence stretcher is probably one of my best friends on our ranch. Although my husband’s hammer trick to tighten barbed wire fences does a terrific job and gets the fence a lot tighter than my stretcher will do, I either have not perfected the art of using a hammer, or just simply don’t have the strength required in my hands. My fence stretcher will help me hold many things tight. Not only does this terrific tool allow me to repair fences like a professional, it also helps me open those torturous gates! Now if only I could find an easy way of carrying it while checking fence lines on foot!

When it comes to moving protein tubs, and handling square bales, and washing out trailers. I have learned that the age old adage of slow and steady wins the race is definitely true. For protein tubs I will often drag them off of the truck or trailer and then proceed to drag them a little bit at a time until they are where I want them. Bales are quite similar, while I can lift the dry ones, wet straw bales have become one of my larger nemesis. Again I take these a little bit at a time, lifting one end at a time. The same thing goes for washing out trailers and manipulating water line. I may be slower at getting some of these jobs done, but they always do end up completed in the long run.

For cutting high tensile wire, I have found that using the good old wire cutters that are in the back of the truck isn’t always the easiest job in the world. Although I’m sure that it would have looked quite humorous if someone had been watching me trying to jump on the handles in order to have the pressure needed to cut the wire. For this exact reason another one of my good friends has become my high tensile wire cutters. These high tensile cutters can be hard to find and a little more expensive than the traditional ones, but well worth the cost as they save a fair bit of time and a lot of headaches.

Things have gotten a lot easier since my first few days on the ranch. Between learning different tricks to negotiate some of the harder chores, and getting physically stronger through sheer force of will to get the job done, I have found ways to do almost every job that I’ve seen my husband do. I have found that not believing in the word ‘can’t’ and being willing to make the mistakes that are bound to happen in any industry are imperative to getting the job done and truly enjoying your career as a rancher or farmer.  While recipes on Google are definitely a life saver in the kitchen, I truly love the labour side of ranching and would not trade that part of my job in for all of the delicious meals on the internet.

Amber Kenyon
Gateway Research Organization