Senior Advisor
Posts: 3,228
Registered: ‎04-30-2010

Family Farms - Feminize Or Die

The ideal (and myth) of the family farm is one of the strongest in American culture.  For most of us on this forum, it is rooted in the models of our grandparents and parents,.  These people livevd through or were strongly affected by those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II.  They brought to the model generally shared visionsn of traditional gender roles.  The man provided and the woman supported and raised the children.  Both worked like dogs, both sacrificed.

When we look back at our forebearers, we can say that some marriages were happy, some unhappy and some.....just marriages.  The man was permitted to marry for attraction as well as the rich farmers daugher.  The woman (a girl) was expected to marry for security and hope she got someone she could respect and even love.  Both needed each other, but the woman needed the man for financial security as a bottom line.  There was a storng religious and social network to reinforce the myth.

Times have changed.

Gender expectations have changed.  Legal rights have changed.  Economic security is different.  Religion is less powerful.  Society is less feared.  Women don't need men as much financially as they used to.  This is not to say that a married couple doesn't usually do better financially than two singles.  Children of married couples generally do better than those raised in a single household, but not by so much as to make socieety care.  Women are now empowered to make or equally participate in financial decisions, so they are no longer taking handouts from the man.  Partly as a consequence, women have felt emboldened to insist on more satisfaction of their emotional needs.  

The male "head of household" is a dying phenomenon on the farm.  There were always a few farm families where the woman "wore the pants" or had a strong say that was usually expressed in private, after the kids went to bed.  Now, the woman feels capable and entitled to make equal decisions on marketing, farm expansion and other matters and at the same time feels entitled to have her emotional, mental and physical needs met by someone able to treat her as a partner, an equal and a person in her own right.

What young woman wants to return to the farm and take over the role of her grandmother or great grandmother, proud of feeding a crew of threshers on a cook stove or canning vegetables while "the old man" takes the cream and eggs to town and has a drink with the boys?

What I am proposing is that in the future farms will evolve into a couple of main models.  One is the "family farm" in wich the family (generally a man and a woman but in this day and age who knows?) evolve sharing relationships.  It may well be that she make sthe beds and he makes the hay, but they will do it from a shared basis and she is as likely as he is to decide to grow and how to market or feed the hay.  

It is entirely possible that all this new family farm will do is bring the old one out of the closet.  There have always been men who would rather plow or combine than plan, and if the woman kept the books maybe she always was more of a financial authority than was let on, but.....the new female family farmer will be out of the closet when it comes to fianncail power as well as acumen.

There may well be familis who live on a farm where the "family farm"model doesn't pertain.  This will be more an industrial model.  The woman will seek to have her needs met in other ways than particiapting in the business.  In this model, a farmer who fails to treat his wife as an equal is more likely to find she is capable of walking away from the balance sheet view of farming easier than the one who not only bottle feeds the calves but culls the cows.  The new model family farm woman is just as likely to throw the man off the farm as she is to leave it herself if the marriage fails.


So - look at a 22 year old woman and tell me what role she would be happy to fulfill in modern production agriculture?

Now, tell me if she is going to find a man she will be eager to work with?

And, finally, tell me if a man will be willing, eager, and even able to work with her as she will feel is her due?