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Love in the Field

February 10, 2016

In the spirit of Valentines Day, we asked some of our farmer couples to dish on the ups and downs of working with their partners and to answer the age old question - "do those who hay together, stay together?" This time, we caught the female perspective -- next time we'll ask the guys! 

Strafford Organic Creamery at Rock Bottom Farm - Strafford
Amy Huyffer and Earl Ransom 

What’s the best part about farming with your partner?

"I don't know that there is a best part of farming with Earl. The best part of farming is Earl, though.  I love how his mind works everything through all the seasons and five years ahead for every small thing we do today.  I love seeing the years play out in the fields and the herd and I love seeing our kids focused on learning how to do this stuff right."

What’s the toughest part?

"The toughest part is deciding who will milk in the morning when we're both tired or sick or hungover."  

What is something you always argue about?

"It sounds silly, but I can count seventeen years worth of arguments on one hand and none of them were about farming."

How do you resolve farm disagreements?

"We don't just blanket-agree with each other on everything, but we kind of come at everything thinking the other person has a valid position, so we just do the value/benefit math back and forth until we figure it out."  

Do you think men and women approach farming differently?

"I think I approach farming differently than the men I farm with, and I think I approach farming differently now than I did when I thought I had to approach it like a man.  An explanation would be a book and maybe some day I'll try to write it.  It would be stupid for someone 5' 2" to approach a field of largely-physical work like someone 6' 3" and it would be stupid for me to try to pretend I've been doing this my whole life like Earl has.  I play to my strengths, picking the jobs that I can do well, that take the load off others, and that no one else wants.  I milk, do artificial insemination, and on butcher day I gut all the chickens.  I also manage the office work and keep us fed and clothed.  In turn, I don't throw hay or drive tractors if I can help it and my contribution to machinery repair is to pick up parts at the store.  I suppose some of it falls on traditional gender-role lines, but it's all just work."

 

Green Mountain Girls Farm - Northfield
Mari Omland and Laura Olsen

What’s the best part about farming with your partner?

"Alignment. We share critical belief systems. Also, we both tend to go all out, putting our hearts and everything we've got into our efforts. Communication is so much easier building on decades of history together, facing so many joys and challenges." 

What’s the toughest part?

"What we are doing is so compelling that too often work creeps into every moment."  

What is something you always argue about?

"We are at the Soils and Nutrition conference and in too much haste to argue about what we argue about!"

How do you resolve work disagreements?

"We revisit issues and concerns but mostly we know each other's strengths and hold perpetual appreciation for each other and those strengths." 

Do you and your partner approach farming differently?

"Mari always wants to plan more and think about the future. Laura knows that time is limited and we often rely on her being a voice of reason!"

Half Pint Farm - Burlington
Mara and Spencer Welton

What’s the best part about farming with your partner?

"We are best friends, and actually really like each other, so it's quite awesome to be able to spend this much time together - also, we each bring some different skills to the table, which helps a lot to naturally divide tasks and do a better job as a whole farm organism."

What’s the toughest part?

"Actually, the toughest part is when the farming becomes a j.o.b. around the last 3 weeks of August - it's literally all we can do to keep all the balls in the air and it takes EVERY SINGLE brain cell to do this well - this means other things suffer like having a decent meal together or even sex - we are TOO TIRED and just trying to get through this day, and the next and the next until the first cold snap of September slows everything down."

What is something you always argue about?

"There is a time every single year when we feel like the farm runs us and we don't run the farm and we really forget to appreciate what we've created together - we force each other to STOP the crazy noise in our head and just lay in the grass and look up at the clouds for a minute. To feel the earth under your whole body is grounding and really quiets the "crazy" going on upstairs. It usually takes a petty argument about something stupid to get one of us going that triggers the other one to send us into "time out.""

How do you resolve farm disagreements?

"For extreme cases, see above. Otherwise, we don't have too many - we have given each other absolute rule over each of our domains and don't ever question the other's reasoning. Don't get me wrong, it took lots of arguments to get us to that point, but that was our solution."

Do you think men and women approach farming differently?

"Well, no. We are firm believers in the different personality types - it supersedes gender. We use Myers Briggs with our staff and each other to figure out what task is best for each person. Aside from more bathroom breaks for women, we've seen men and women tackle farming similarly over the years." 

 

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