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Women in Ag: Farming Doesn't Wait on the Sun

Farming doesn’t wait for the sun to rise, or stop just because it goes down.

I didn’t know this until I started working in agriculture. My first lesson came in college, when my beef production class required students to sign up for evening shifts of “calf watch.” Our job was to check on the cows in the barn, ladies who were due to give birth at any minute, and offer assistance if they needed help calving.

At the time, it made sense to me that farmers raising livestock would need to work at night because babies are born at all hours. This city girl didn’t think that crop farmers’ hours could also stretch longer than the sunlight.

Now that I’m a farm girl, I know better.

Last week My Farmer worked well past sundown bedding tobacco land. The weatherman was calling for rain the next day. Several fields had already been plowed, which you do before forming the soil into raised beds. If it rained on those plowed fields, we would have to wait several days for the fields to dry out before a tractor could get back in them. 

So, he continued running the tractor and bedder, forming raised beds across the field. It’s not the first time, and certainly won’t be the last, that he was still working past sundown.

In the spring, during planting season, he often leaves the house before the sun comes up.  During harvest season, it’s rare he gets home before 8:00 at night. For us, that starts in July, as soon as the first barn of tobacco is full. When it’s time to dig sweet potatoes, it’s not unusual for him to be plowing potatoes at 4:00 in the morning and checking tobacco barns after dark that evening.

Depending on the time of year, if a weather event is forecast, he may be working half the night. Last fall he picked corn into the early morning hours to get it harvested before Hurricane Matthew passed through North Carolina.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how farmers were staying up all night irrigating strawberries, apples, and other fruit crops to protect blossoms from freezing temperatures. 

What keeps you out after sundown on your farm?

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