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6 Inspiring FarmHers From Texas to Colorado
Growing up in rural Iowa, I saw firsthand the vital role women played on farms. And they still do. Women are often the unseen faces of agriculture.
A few years ago, fresh off of a career in corporate agriculture, I became inspired to tell the stories of these rural women through the lens of my camera, and FarmHer was born. Since then, I have traveled gravel roads around the country, visiting farms and ranches, and sharing the stories and faces of the women who work them. Women who birth calves, raise curly-headed lambs, and work the soil.
Today, my crew and I have a television show on RFD-TV, a radio show, and podcast, and we host events that inspire and connect FarmHers around the country. I’m also proud of our expanding partnership with Successful Farming magazine, where I share a monthly column and photo.
I am blessed to experience the beauty that women bring to agriculture – the quiet and calm of them working, their hands moving sure and strong, and their gentle care with livestock. In this article, I’m happy to share some of the faces and stories of FarmHer.
A husband-and-wife team raise big red cattle on rolling green pastures.
Who says you can’t be a bit whimsical and raise cattle at the same time? Crystal Blin names her cattle after lipstick colors. (For example, her Hereford heifer Honey Love got her moniker from a lipstick hue that reportedly “stands out on the runway.”) Blin’s husband, Jon, also has a hand in naming livestock, taking his cues from rap lyrics and stars. Together these young owners of JJB Cattle Co. in Independence, Iowa, have a good time raising purebred beef cattle. Blin, a fan of cosmetics and beauty products, applies that knowledge in marketing the cattle. She primps and preps calves for photos by giving them a spa treatment – washing, blow-drying, and adding conditioner to their coats.
The scrubby landscape of rural Texas is ideal for foraging heritage pigs.
Leah Gibson and her husband, Gabe, live and work at Boxcar Farm and Garden of Maxwell, Texas, a 12-acre farm where they raise pasture-grazed heritage hogs. Their Red Wattle pigs wander from place to place on the farm, with the couple moving fences, shelter, and watering tanks to keep the pigs happy and well fed. The good-natured hogs, each bearing a distinctive wattle on each side of the neck, are known for their lean meat and excellent foraging ability. Changing pastures allows the pigs to eat weeds and stomp their manure into the ground, which adds organic material to the soil. The foraging is also great for the pigs, who, Gibson says, “taste really good.”
Bucking broncs kick up a multigenerational family business in Colorado.
Kirsten Vold has rodeo in her blood. She grew up on the road with her parents, living the life of a true cowgirl and performing as a rodeo trick rider. Her father, Harry, was a famous rodeo rider turned rodeo promoter. At age 25, Vold took the reins of the company, Harry Vold Rodeo, based in Pueblo, Colorado. Now she runs the business built by her father, spending 200 days a year on the rodeo trail as the company produces rodeos in seven states. Vold spends the rest of the year at the Colorado ranch, where she manages 15,000 acres of prairie and raises 250 horses.
Growing and processing sorghum is a sticky (but delicious!) business.
Young and determined, 19-year-old Kaitlyn Elliott is the fourth generation of her family to grow, harvest, and process sorghum. Elliott and her family grow the sweet grain at their Gravel Switch, Kentucky, farm. They harvest the 6- to 8-foot-tall plants with a machete, then process the sorghum stalks through a mill and press, producing a sugary liquid. The liquid is cooked for up to eight hours, then it is bottled for sale by the jar or for use as an ingredient in their custom-recipe barbecue sauce. The farm’s Poorhouse Sorghum products are sold to local restaurants, at local farmers markets, and through an Etsy store.
Low-maintenance Katahdin sheep graze happily at this Iowa farm, relishing the rolling hills of the countryside.
Sharon Krause raises purebred Katahdin sheep at Dalla Terra Ranch, a 153-acre farm located near Earlham, Iowa, where her flock spreads out, grazing happily on pasture grass, clover, and alfalfa. They are accompanied by some fluffy guardian dogs. Dalla Terra is Italian and translates to “from the land.” That’s exactly where Krause’s lambs receive their sustenance, as they graze freely on the rolling hills. Krause produces meat she markets directly to consumers, offering custom cuts and locker lamb. Katahdin sheep are hardy and low maintenance, requiring no shearing or tail docking. The breed produces lean, flavorful meat.
Cows, pigs, and cranberries make up this diverse farming operation.
Erin Williams doesn’t know a day that’s not busy. She produces grass-fed meat (beef, pork, and poultry) on her own farm, Bogside Acres, and she also works with her husband, Cass Gilmore, growing cranberries at his family’s third-generation farm, Bensons Pond, near South Middleboro, Massachusetts. Williams also has a full-time job as a commercial banker. She raises Simmental cattle, Tamworth-cross pigs, and Cornish-cross broiler chickens. The couple also hosts events at the bog (you can become a cranberry bogger for a day!) as part of the family business of living off the land.