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Farm Wives: The Unsung Heroes of Agriculture
When a woman marries a farmer, she adopts a complex way of life.
“Sometimes people don’t understand how I help with farming, how hard it is, and how many hands it takes to make it all work," says Stephanie Spieler, of Marcus, Iowa, shown at right with local 4-Her Derek Goth. "With livestock, it doesn’t matter how cold it is or what time it is, we have to be up and out there helping, especially during calving season. These animals are our livelihood and we have to make sure it all goes right.”
Spieler grew up on a farm and now helps her husband with their livestock operation. "I help with chores when my husband is busy in another field far away or working on equipment. I try to be useful doing small stuff so we can get as much done in a day as possible.”
Every bit helps
Peggy Jaminet was raised as a city girl but moved to the farm near Cherokee, Iowa, when she got married. "Farmers can’t take time to make their own meals or run 50 miles away to get seed or parts,” she says. “I came from the city, so the biggest challenge was just the hours. I don’t work 8 to 5. We work all day and don’t have set meal times. When I’m not helping outside, I’m making three meals a day and running it to the guys in the field. I want to make it as smooth as possible for them."
Jaminet says she is like a second hired hand. "We work with livestock at any hour in the day, and sometimes we don’t get much sleep; that is just part of it.” She has done her share of loading hogs and power washing hog barns. "A lot of people see farming as just sitting on a tractor, but there is much more to it behind the scenes in order to make it happen.”
Keeping things sane
Farm wives do a lot of hands-on work to help with their operations, but they also have another important role. “I try to be the mediator and the cheerleader when nothing is going right," says Spieler. "It’s hard to keep the family’s sanity when stress levels are climbing the wall."
Becky Whited, Marcus, Iowa, echoes this. “It is very important for women to know what’s going on in agriculture. It helps with the strength of the family. The husband knows his wife is 100% behind him.” Whited has always lived on a farm, so being a farm wife "is part of my down-home roots."
She says that faith, family, and farming are her core values. "Getting to work together as a family is a special feeling," says Whited. "There are not very many occupations out there that you get to work beside your family and accomplish the things we do on the farm. It’s pretty special and humbling."
Promoting agriculture is an important part of farming, says Spieler. She is on her local FFA board and works with the 4-H program. “It is important for both women and men to help promote agriculture. FFA helps kids get exposed to the world. It shows them jobs they can do in agriculture."
Jaminet promotes agriculture by being a member of the county pork producers organization. “Helping with pork cooking events is a way to get our message out. We are promoting what we were doing back at the farm.”
Being a farm wife takes hard work, dedication, and faith, say all three women. Helping on the farm and doing manual work is just one part of the job. A lot of the work is behind the scenes. That is why these women are the unsung heroes of agriculture.
Editor's note: Jesse Rose is a student at Iowa State University majoring in ag studies and ag communications.