If you had asked me 15 years ago what I would be doing with my career, I would have never in a million years guessed I would be working on our family farm. I never thought there would be a place for me honestly. I went to school for medical transcription and followed that up with a business degree. I have always worked on the farm seasonally, ever since I was old enough to count back change to customers at our stand. After having my second child, and quickly realizing that daycare costs as much a mortgage, especially for multiple kids, I decided I would stay home with them. That quickly turned into an opportunity to start helping with some lingering things that we needed done for the farm, but that my dad and mom just didn’t have the time to keep up with.
That was nearly 9 years ago. My job has increased quite a bit and with each year new responsibilities are placed in my hands. Working alongside my dad and brother has been a great way for us to spend more time together and for me to learn more and more about the business. I am very type A and a perfectionist. If something is not done right, then I don’t want to do it all. I can’t sleep knowing something hasn’t been handled or knowing a deadline is coming up and everything isn’t just right yet. My dad knows this about me and I know this is why he gives me the responsibilities he has.
The rules, regulations, and requirements that are required of farmers today would blow your mind. I have a hard time keeping up and it’s my full time job. I can’t even imagine other farmers who don’t have anyone to help them out with all of their records and they have to tend to their crops, manage their business, and go home and keep up with records every night. My dad and brother have so much going on all the time. Deciding where to plant what, prepping the land to plant, planting, tending, harvesting, and all the while having business meetings and keeping up with all the sales of crops. There is no way they would have time to keep up with all the records as well.
I like to think that I am able to take some pressure off of them. I handle all the farm audits that we have for various GAP crops and any pesticide audits as well. I manage our Facebook page, our website, and any communications that I can. I also like to think of myself as my dads assistant. If he needs me to set something up, find out information on something, or do some research on something, I am his go to for that. I have been known to make him many 3 ring binders of information that he asks about, just so that he has everything he needs to make a decision.
When it comes to work, my dad and I, are like the yin and yang. I tend to be shy and quiet and he is not. He is very laid back and I am not. He has a big personality and I do not. However he has definitely modeled to me how relationships matter. Relationships within your customer base, your relationships in your community, relationships with all clientele, all of these matter and he has really shown me how to speak up and handle myself within all of these groups. He knows how to pressure me without making me sink. I doubt myself all the time and he believes in me. It’s not always easy and sometimes its pretty scary. He can ask me to do something and I know nothing about it so I have to do my own research and reach out and ask questions to find out the information that I need to move forward, but so far I’ve always managed to work it out, and hopefully that will continue to be the case as more gets handed over to me.
Working with my brother has been a blessing in disguise. Growing up we were always close but as we got older, and had different careers, we suddenly weren’t as close anymore. We talk regularly now and I think I have proven to him he can trust me to keep up with things that he doesn’t have time for either. Sure there are ups and downs. I think we have a lot of similarities that can make us clash, but at the end of the day he’s my brother, and I would do anything he needed me to do. I believe we make a good team and that we can continue to work together to keep the farm prospering for years to come.
Being a woman in agriculture means you are the minority. There are not a lot of men who want to deal with me because I’m a woman. I think of my dad as a celebrity and everyone wants to talk to him. They see his truck, they want to stop and talk. Dad is talker but it limits his time getting things done, so sometimes, if someone needs something he will send them my way and divert some of his constant traffic towards me. I have been shut down more times than I would like to admit when trying to have a conversation with a man in this industry, immediately they don’t want to talk to me, they want my dad. However, my dad has taught me how to find my voice and I can hold my own with any of these guys now. In fact, when it comes to tomato season in particular, some of them request to only talk to me now.
I feel fortunate to be able to contribute to our family business in any way that I can. I am grateful to be able to learn something new about farming consistently through my job. I am grateful for flexible hours so that I can still be a present mom to my kids, and since starting full time I have had my third child three years ago. I strive to always do my best and hopefully make dad proud. I hope as our farm continues to grow, that my role here will grow as well, and that we can continue on the family tradition for years to come.
Until next time,
the farmer’s daughter
All pictures courtesy of Libby McGowan Photography.