Marilyn Hershe
I do not remember a time when I did not identify myself as a farm girl. Even when I was a young child, the farm was my security. It was where I would retreat when I needed to be alone, and it was the place where I found the most joy and peace.

Lord knows it was not the house — I always preferred barn chores over house chores. In fact, I had a habit of making sure I got a list of chores from my dad before my mom had a chance to give me too many tasks for the house. Granted, I complained about chores just like every other child, but when it came down to it, I preferred the animals, the hay loft, and exploring through the barn for a new litter of kittens to anything happening in the house.

In my younger years, I grabbed our old and dusty horse saddle and threw it on a couple of hay bales to pretend I was riding in a rodeo, roping calves and racing around barrels. When I was really daring, I rode three bales high.

This year I had the opportunity to attend a real Texas style rodeo and I had to laugh as that memory came bursting back in my head. The actual event was obviously much more difficult than my perceived easy win on hay bales.

I distinctly remember the day that I graduated from feeding calves milk to also feeding heifers. It was a big deal to me that I was responsible for bagging silage and grain and spreading it out in the trough for our older heifers. Lifting the bag was not an easy task, and sometimes I think the bag was in control of where the silage landed, but I loved the farm girl grit it took to get that done.

I embraced the responsibilities that came with the farm girl status: living in the country, driving tractors, and working around the animals.

I do not remember loving the hot summer days of unloading a continuous stream of hay wagons. The feeling of accomplishment at the end was wonderful, though, along with a trip to the frozen custard place at sundown.

Even my fashion sense gravitated to Western wear: boots, hats, jeans, and anything that pointed me back to the farm. I still have that preference, especially when it comes to boots.

When my brother decided to work away from the farm, I soon became my dad’s right hand. I liked the new responsibilities that came with that title.

There was a time that my heart followed my brother’s trail, and I explored a job away from the farm. I spent just short of a year waiting on tables as a server. It was good money, I enjoyed the new friendships, and I did not have a problem carrying a tray of plates and food on my shoulder. However, there was something missing, and I soon decided to go back to the farm and work for my dad.

Being a farm girl is not easy, but more importantly, it is never boring. I preferred the variety that farm life offered opposed to the schedule of food service. My heart never left the farm or skipped a beat when Duane and I started farming. I was just a farm girl at a new location.

Maybe some of you are muttering under your breath that I am not of the “girl” age, and maybe I shouldn’t continue to refer to myself as a farm girl. I don’t think carrying the farm girl label is one that wears out or becomes something different when we are older. Yes, some of us are more seasoned at the farm girl thing, but I would argue that this is a title that sticks with us for life.

Thankfully, I am not alone. The farm girl club is not an exclusive one, and we come in many ages, styles, and backgrounds.

The other week I was in a store and needed to buy some water for my parents, so I picked up two large containers and took them to the counter. As it usually happens, I was also juggling as many other items as I could carry without getting a cart. The water containers were 2.5 gallons each and were getting heavy, but I wasn’t too far from the cashier.

The young lady at the reception desk tried to lift a container to scan it and nearly dropped the water because of the weight. “How did you carry these around? They are heavy,” she said.

I instinctively answered that I am a farm girl. I did not bother to explain that there are many days I carried two 5-gallon buckets of feed to the heifer pen, or tell her about the heavy milk buckets going to calves, or the hay bales that I slung around. In my mind, telling her that I was a farm girl was description enough that she would understand.

Her answer back was, “Well, I am not a farm girl.”

I thought this was a great opportunity, and I offered to change that for her if she was interested in becoming a strong farm girl, but she quickly declined. It’s too bad, because she missed a great opportunity to belong to a wonderful group of women who are proud of where they come from, with the confidence to accomplish anything and enough grit to carry them through the many ups and downs of life.

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.