May 9 2018 08:45 AM

Farming is a profession that isn’t dictated by gender.

Growing up on a dairy farm, I was never treated like the girl. I was given all the same opportunities as my brothers, and it was up to me to take them. I didn’t consider it much then, but now I’m grateful for it.

Sexism is a topic that’s everywhere you look right now thanks to Hollywood, but it’s not just a Hollywood problem. Being a woman in the dairy industry is an interesting experience. It can be amazingly empowering, but it can also be demeaning. I’ve been undervalued, underestimated, and spoken down to just because I’m the girl. It’s not always so obvious.

Sometimes it’s the salesman who assumes I’d be available for a meeting because I obviously wouldn’t be doing fieldwork like the guys. Girls don’t drive tractors. Or it’s the new salesman who asks me where my husband or daddy is. I always tell him, politely at first, that he can speak with me. I usually smile when he’s adamant about talking to my dad. Because as I’m making that phone call, I know that he’s going to be ticked that he has to stop what he’s doing to come tell this jerk that if he wants us to buy his product he has to talk to me. Guess what? I’m not buying. Sometimes it’s as slight as the sweetheart, honey, or little girl tacked onto the end of a sentence.

It’s wrong because we’re not just the farmer’s wife. We’re not just the farmer’s daughter. We’re not just the part-time help while the boys are in the field. We’re the farmers, too.

We drive tractors. We feed calves. We build fence. We clean the parlor. We use power tools. We milk cows.

The women in this industry are amazing. Some are full-time farmers and some work for or with farmers. Some run the entire farm, while some have off farm jobs, too. Some advocate on social media, some have their own businesses, and some raise the next generation of farmers.

No matter what we do, all of us are smart, capable, and strong. I can’t describe the confidence and knowledge I’ve gained from my fellow dairy girls and their support. Some of these amazing women put in a full day on the farm then come home to cook, clean, and spend hours caring for their families and others.

We truly can do everything the boys do. We just do it in pink while singing loudly to Taylor Swift. In other words, we do it better.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.

Join us next week

Trevor DeVries presents “Calf rearing affects lifetime eating behavior” on Monday, May 14, 2018, at noon (Central time).

The feeding behavior patterns of dairy cattle are known to impact health, productivity, and welfare. Trevor DeVries, University of Guelph, will discuss how the way we feed, house, and manage calves impacts the learning and persistence of their feeding patterns.

The webinar is sponsored by AAS.