When you think of a farmer, what do you see? An old man in bib overalls? A hard working, dusty person? How do they look? Young, attractive? A man? Perhaps you think of the Amish, or the famous “American Gothic” portrait.
Obviously, you can’t always judge a person’s career by their appearance, but we in agriculture sometimes feel like it’s easy to stereotype it. Attend any country music conference, and all the pretty girls want to look “country” by wearing their daisy dukes, cowgirl boots, tied up flannels, while singing “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae. (Because that’s what every farm girl looks like, right farm ladies?)
But they aren’t real farmers right? It’s a male dominated industry full of grubby, hard working cowboys in pickup trucks with calloused hands. (Okay, that stereotype might be true. Haha)
As a woman in agriculture, sometimes when I’m out and about and dressed up and tell people I’m a farmer they say, “You don’t look like a farmer!” But what does a farmer look like? These are two photos of me side-by-side. Whether dressed up for a beach photo shoot or “looking like a farmer,” it’s still the same girl! Just a different presentation.
Did you know: Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs compared to 1950? Today, the average farmer feeds 155 people compared to 25.8 in 1960. Farmers have tractors that drive themselves, drones to monitor the fields, sensors that can detect when your cows are about to have calves and send you a text message notification, even robots that milk the cows! In my opinion, there has never been a more exciting time to be in agriculture. We love and work in a very fast-paced industry where the sky’s the limit to what you can do. Innovation has played a key role in reducing inputs and GHG emissions. No longer is farming a world of old guys with pitchforks.
Yes, it’s true that a majority of farmers are an older generation, but times are changing, so we are gonna have a little fun here. Can you tell what a farmer looks like? Take the quiz! Here are some side by side photos; one person is a farmer and one is not. Can you guess which is the farmer?
How did you do? Did you successfully guess who the farmers were based on appearance? It’s time to throw the romantic imagery of farming to the wayside. No longer are we in an era where farmers necessarily have red barns, white Pickett fences, overalls, pitchforks, and straw hanging out of their mouths. (Okay… well maybe sometimes.) Today’s farmers are science-, data-, and tech-based. Our industry is fast-paced and exciting, and we are able to do more with less, whether that means bigger, more efficient equipment, better crop genetics, improved livestock care, or the like.
The next time you picture a farmer, know that it could be absolutely anyone at any age, with any look in any town.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.
Moving Agriculture Forward
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