Hilary Maricle & Bonnie Schulz: The many roles of women in agriculture
An 1870 publication reads, “The farmer’s wife is not less essential to successful farming than her husband.”
City girls turned country women, Bonnie Schulz and Hilary Maricle, offered advice on being successful ranch wives during the Women In Blue Jeans (WIBJ) Conference on Jan. 20, in Mitchell, SD. Their presentation was titled, “Farm Wife 101.”
“Communication in a relationship is like air and you know what happens if you don’t have enough air,” said Schulz, who is also the agribusiness technology instructor at Northeast Community College (NECC) and works alongside her husband on their family operation.
“Great communicators will change their approach based upon the person they are talking to,” added Maricle, who also works at NECC and raises five kids with her husband on their diversified crop and cattle operation. “Communication can vary with who you are trying to speak to. Perhaps you’re on the ranch, or you’re visiting with a consumer at the grocery store. Maybe you are chatting with a friendly neighbor or with an anti-agriculture activist. The most important thing is to listen, show interest, develop a friendly rapport and speak confidently.”
The duo explained how agriculture is under constant scrutiny, with public perception and misrepresentation creating a disconnect among consumer and producer groups.
“Tell the story of your farm to your family, friends and the world,” advised Maricle. “Speak confidently and positively about what goes on at your farm. Develop your 30-second speech to help strike up a conversation with someone outside of agriculture.”
The difference between individual farms and ranches is diversity in product and income opportunities. All dealings with livestock on the farm include a lot of emotion as everyone has their own way of handling animals, they explained.
“The bottom line in livestock production is that we are growing a product we will eat,” Maricle added. “This might be a harsh reality for many to understand, but our consumers need to know we care about these animals, even though their end is the dinner plate.”
“The farm family is unique and managed differently, I’ve quickly learned,” added Schulz. “Income is irregular and uncertain. Household expenditures are small when compared to farm expenses. Insurance and health costs are usually higher. Farm and home compete for surplus cash. Learn what works for others and find what works for your situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional advice.”
Schulz quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, “Remember that a home requires all the tact and all the executive ability required in any business.”
“I have learned to be very frugal, as a stay-at-home farm wife,” shared Schulz. “This is my way to contribute and be a valued member of the farm. It’s important to keep accurate records to help stay on budget. Keep records in a ‘love box,’ which should include: crop production records, livestock records, land mortgages, leases, bank accounts, wills, trusts and passports. Get a file cabinet, fire-proof box or safe-deposit box to keep these important documents.”
Additional farm wife advice from the pair is to learn to love life as an agriculture wife.
“Communication and treating others as you want to be treated is so important,” recommended Schulz. “Be a lifelong learner. My philosophy is it isn’t a good day unless I learn something new. Show pride in your farm and continue to learn. Take ownership in this way of life.”
“Make connections with family members, neighbors, friends, family and adversary groups,” concluded Maricle. “How do we communicate with our in-laws? How do we talk to consumers? Learn to respond to each scenarios as it comes. Be an effective communicator. Don’t be afraid to show your passions in agriculture.”
Their presentation inspired the audience to appreciate rural living, make connections with consumers and be better communicators both on and off the farm or ranch.
Editor’s note: Both women can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@bonniekschulz and @mariclefarm) They both blog, as well. Their postings can be found at http://bonniekayeschulz-bonnieville.blogspot.com/ and http://mariclemusings.blogspot.com/.
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