Who Runs The World... (farm) GIRLS!

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Happy International Women’s Day to all my ladies out there!

Now you know I couldn’t let this day go by without celebrating my fellow female farmers out there kicking butt in this male dominated industry.

So earlier this week I sent out a quick message to some of my favourite local female farmers to get their take on being a women in agriculture or advice they’d like to pass on to those wanting to get into the business.

Keep in mind this is by no means an extensive list, I’m proud to say there are a huge number of ladies rocking farming here in the Fraser Valley, these are just a handful of farmers who have help or inspired me along the way. 

Farmer Ashlee of Inner Peas Market Garden

Obviously this girl made my list for multiple reasons, not only is she a fantastic produce grower here in Langley but she’s also made Central Park Farms the new home for her business for the 2019 season. We are so excited to have another female farmer around here… poor Jay is getting grossly outnumbered. PS there’s still room in her CSA if you want to get your hands on a weekly box of fresh veggies for pick up from our farm every Thursday this season.

To me, being a female in farming means I have the responsibility to support, encourage, and lift up other women in agriculture as others have done, and continue to do for me. I'm proud to play a small part in breaking the stereotype that if you're a female in farming you must either be the farmers' daughter, or the farmers' wife. You don't need a man to be a farmer, and you don't need to be married into it. If you're hard working, passionate and determined, you can do it.

Farmer Kim of Reverent Acres

Ok so this lady, in true farming fashion, was a little late getting back to me because she was busy pulling lambs from a mama who ran into birthing troubles… very happy to report that Kim got the twins out safely and everyone is doing well. For those who don’t yet know Kim, she along with her husband and baby boy (who is perhaps the cutest baby to ever join a farmers market) raise grass fed, grass finished water buffalo. Follow them on Instagram for lots of baby water buffalo pictures, they don’t disappoint!

I love knowing that the dirt under my nails, the calluses on my hands, and the sore muscles all contribute to the food we are able to produce on our farm. So much care goes into the animals we raise and I have such a deep appreciation for the meat we eat. Matt and I work so hard to raise our animals in a way that shows respect for them and what they provide for us! I’m proud of what I do and am so grateful to be part of an amazing agricultural community that is looking to farm in a way that cares for the animals and land they are using.

Farmer Jill of K&M Farms 

Talking about supportive female farmers, Jill would be someone that from afar people might see as competition for me. She’s a young female farmer raising pasture raised chicken here in the Fraser Valley but I’m honoured to say that Jill is a mentor of mine and is always willing to support other women working to get into farming. It’s all about collaboration over competition with this one.

Woman farmers are growing and they are the best farmers to have around. Woman can wear multiple hats and are natural nurtures. What other skills do you even need to farm? Shout out to all my woman farming peers who work extremely hard every day managing all those ‘hats’. 

Farmer Heidi of Campbell Valley Farms

Last season, Heidi was (aside from myself of course) the farmer who was most responsible for feeding my family… with the number of farmers markets we attend and the access we have to locally grown food, that says a lot. Since Heidi is just around the corner from our farm, we joined her CSA program and so enjoyed the fresh organic vegetables she provided. Starting this season, Heidi will also have a farm stand open on Saturdays.

Coming from a corporate business industry to a life and career changing, passion driven industry was scary and uncertain.  My love of organic farming overrode all fear!  I will never look back, only forward.  If you want to live your dream you sometimes have to go a different path first, but never give up!

Farmer Stacey of Coghlan Cottage

I need to start by saying I love following Stacey on Instagram. She has this weird ability to be total honest with the struggles of farming yet do it in such a calm way that it’s somehow mediative. Her journey with raising a family while trying to live a more simple life is beautiful to watch. Aside from simply enjoying her stories, Stacey raises Icelandic lamb, heritage bred pigs, chickens, and makes gorgeous soap. 

For me — being a female farmer is an act of joyful rebellion. My difference gives me an opening to make my farming an act of social activism, to talk about things that matter, equality, access, ecology + social justice. 

Farmer Cathy of Laurica Farm

When I first started ‘farming’ i.e. working my corporate career and, in my mind, just raising some chickens to feed my family and selling some to offset the costs, Cathy was the first farmer to reach out to me and welcome me to the group. She invited me to her farm and showed me all the wonderful and educational things they’re doing over at Laurica Farm… I remember saying that she really seemed to have it all figured out. But thankfully for my confidence level, she was quick to teach me that farmers NEVER have it completely figured out and we’re all just ‘winging it’ sometimes.

Because Cathy had been full of valuable advice for me those years ago, I asked her to share her advice for women looking to get into farming.

I would tell women and new farmers to utilize the resource of fellow farmers and challenge yourself to mix with the people that you wouldn't naturally be drawn to. It's easy to hang out with the other woman farmers or new farmers, but go find the old guy that's been raising cattle for 50 years. Even if your farming values don't align, listening to him will expand your understanding. 

And most importantly, be kind to yourself. You don't have to do everything all at once. Whatever you achieve is enough. You're embarking on a wild, difficult but rewarding endeavour. Love it, hate it, get mad about it but always, give yourself a break.

Farmer Marie of Van H Acres 

I first met Marie when she became a customer of ours but quickly learned that she is a very skilled and educated farmer in her own rights. Marie’s farm is not too far from ours and she sells eggs from pasture raised hens using the cutest mobile chicken coop and pasture rotation method — If you’ve ever seen that sweet little red and white chicken coop on 0 Ave in South Langley, then you’ve seen Van H Acres. Aside from egg layers, Marie also raises goats and Satin rabbits and she is a wealth of knowledge on good animal husbandry and has always been a go-to for me when I have questions regarding goat health… or when I need support in my fight with electric fencing. 

I’m most proud of the community that we are building. Our farming capacities, philosophies, styles, and ages are varied; but we have chosen to weave together a community in which we support and promote one another. I couldn’t be more proud to stand beside these fantastic ladies as we farm for our communities, our families, our animals, and our environment.

And for me? What do I think about being a female farmer?

I’m pretty used to the male dominated industry thing but I’ve never in my professional career been in a line of work where there’s a stronger support system of likeminded business owners. I’m so unbelievable proud of this community and honoured to be a small part of it. 

Kendall ~ Boss Chick at Central Park Farms

Kendall Ballantine