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FarmHer: Focusing on women in agriculture

Flip through the ag section of your local newspaper, and
chances are you'll see photos of men in the field, livestock, and machinery.
But where are the women? That's the question Marji Guyler-Alaniz asked herself
in February 2013.

A few weeks before this newspaper epiphany, Alaniz – along
with millions of other Americans – was deeply touched by the two-minute Dodge
Ram "So God made a farmer" commercial featuring Paul Harvey, which
aired during the Super Bowl.

The commercial got her thinking more and more about
agriculture. Alaniz, who now lives in Urbandale, Iowa, grew up in the country.
Even though her parents weren't farmers, her grandparents were, so she has
always had a healthy appreciation of ag.

"The more I looked, the more I realized there was a
real lack of images of women in agriculture everywhere," Alaniz says.
"But women are on every farm, putting the work in."

Adjusting her focus

At this point in her life, Alaniz had spent 11 years working
in marketing and risk management for an agricultural insurance company. She
also had a side business as a photographer. "I decided it was time to make
a change," she says.

With the encouragement of her husband, Tony Alaniz, who grew
up on a farm near Grinnell, Iowa, she left the insurance business behind and
decided to focus on photography. This move also allowed her to spend more time
at home with daughter Ava, now 4, and son A.J., 2.

Her new enterprise wouldn't be an ordinary photography
business, however. Alaniz decided to combine her love of photography and her passion
for promoting women in agriculture. "I knew I could do something
more," she says. FarmHer was born.

"FarmHer started as a photography project to show that
women are an important part of ag," Alaniz says. "I realized that
people in urban areas may not know that." The idea was to photograph women
doing their work, and to share those images on a website,

Alaniz began reaching out to farm women to find the right
subjects. The project picked up steam, and by last summer, she was
photographing one to two women per month. Her photos aren't traditional posed
portraits of women with perfect hair and make-up. They show women doing real
work. In some photos, the subjects' faces aren't even seen, but their emotions
are still conveyed, and the audience gets a feel for their life on the farm.

Alaniz started off photographing women in Iowa, close to
home. Since then, she has done shoots in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida, and
plans to expand both geographically and by showcasing different facets of
agriculture. "I try to find someone to photograph wherever I visit,"
she says.

Getting down to business

In October, Alaniz incorporated FarmHer. "Now I have to
figure out how to run this project as a business, while still promoting women
in ag," she says.

One way she is able to monetize her project is by selling paper
and canvas prints of her photos, and digital stock imagery. On her website,
Alaniz also sells FarmHer shirts, hats, bags, and other merchandise. The
clothing brand has extended to include RanchHer and GardenHer designs.
"Women love the name FarmHer," she says. "I hope that when they
wear the clothes, they feel empowered about what they do, and feel part of a
bigger community."

While photographing women at work on the farm is the number
one priority of FarmHer, Alaniz says, "This has to be a business over the
long-term. We're getting there." Her clothing and other gear is also
available on a wholesale basis, for others wishing to sell it at farmers'
markets or in stores. Her website remains the exclusive online retailer. Alaniz
is also gearing up to expand the FarmHer website to make it not only a showcase
for the FarmHer images, but also a community for women in ag who visit the

Spreading the word

Since taking FarmHer to the next level, Alaniz says the
response has been phenomenal. The business has been featured in several media
outlets, and she has been asked to speak at multiple conferences for women in

Attending the conferences is not only a great way to meet
potential subjects, but it's a wonderful time for women in general, Alaniz
says. "Women love to network, talk, and share," she says. "We
thrive on that."

Her conference presentations give her a chance to show the
women attendees that they are seen, valued, and appreciated. "It's very
exciting for me to be able to do that," Alaniz says. "I love talking about FarmHer. It's my passion project."

FarmHer was
created because Alaniz wanted to document women in agriculture, and promote
their important role in this industry to the world. "I believe that the
only way you change ideas and perceptions is consistency over time," she
says. "These changes might be subtle, but I believe they will occur. When
people see an image or idea regularly, they come to believe that it is way that
things actually are. By infusing images of women in agriculture into farm
imagery we can change the way people perceive a farmer."

Click here to browse a
slideshow featuring photographs of women in agriculture by Marji Guyler-Alaniz.


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