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InternationAl Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day, we reached out to some of the women in our membership and asked them some questions about being a female farmer in this day and age. Enjoy the answers below.


Lisa & Steve Cooper in a kitchen standing over some lettuce
Lisa & Steve Cooper

Lisa Cooper from CoopersCSA answered this question for us, "How do you balance your roles and responsibilities on the farm as a couple, and does this impact how you understand each other and your place in society?"


This is a very interesting question.


Our roles have changed greatly over the years as we have grown our farm business and taken on employees, and the business has incorporated.


Prior to me leaving my off farm job and focusing all my time on our farm, my role was very limited. I of course would try to assist in some light chores and trying to help out when Steve was very busy in the fields so when he returned to the farm late in the evening he didn't have to go back out and do more work. 


Steve worked with his family, and they farmed the way they have always farmed over the years doing cash crops and beef cattle. Due to the fact that we were such a small farm, and had such a small land base, we didn't have the scale to support 2 families with this style of farming. This made us look elsewhere to build our own farming business. This is the time when Steve and I started to become more partners in regards to the direction our farm was going in.


This was also the time when our children were very young, so I was typically in charge of the child rearing and running around etc. Steve did his fair share as I was still working off the farm, and he needed to be available to the children when I was at work. When I finally came back to the farm, (this was something that was forced upon us and not exactly panned as I was laid off), the decisions and day to day work became 50/50. We went full force in to our on farm entertainment, and our farm box program and farmers markets/road side stand.


Since that time we have morphed into a business that can support 2 generations of farmers, as well as some year round employees from the community. We also have seasonal work where we employ young people from the area as well as have seasonal migrant workers. 


Our roles and responsibility have often come from necessity or comfort within that role. Steve is in charge of the migrant workers (he took Spanish at the local college to be able to communicate with them properly) and the local field workers. I have generally been in charge of HR, and all the other employees.  I do most of the paperwork, but there are some areas that Steve takes control (like the migrant worker request paperwork). Steve generally is in charge of most of the field work, and I am in charge of retail. I also am the main person that all our customers deal with via email/phone. We believe it is important to keep that connection to us personally to keep them engaged with the farm. Steve does a lot of the numbers for the farm (makes sure what we are planning is profitable), but I am the day to day treasurer. Most of the roles we take on are out of comfort and understanding. It really works for us.


As much as we try there are some areas that Steve is better equipped for, and others I am. Depending on the time of year, that balance can be out of proportion, but in the end I believe we each handle the 50/50 quite evenly.


Getting asked this question many times, I like to try to educate people on this type of relationship. We have one of the only relationships where we work, live, eat, sleep with our business partner/spouse, 24/7/365. Not very many other relationships are put through this type of consistent interaction and testing. It can make for some very trying times, as well as some very rewarding times. After 30 years I think we have learned to handle it, and make it work for us (balance/understanding). Our way of navigating our relationship may not be the way anyone else does in our situation, but it works for us.


Our place in society is a little more difficult to articulate. We feel very fortunate to have the jobs and life we do. We feel most people have a healthy respect for farmers and what we do. There are always issues that arise from outside sources (slamming on SM/government regulations/people not understanding what it take for farmers just to simply exist in this day and age). We try to take it in stride and educate when we can. Everything is so polarizing in society now, and it is often is very hard to get anyone to listen to the truth. Of course our truth may not be someone else's truth, so the more farmers spreading their truth the better.


We are proud to call ourselves farmers, and self-employed. Farming can not be a way of life any longer, or you won't make it. We have to have a viable business that can support us and the next generation or else it's not worth doing.


Sally Shearman from Sharon Creek Farm, and Sandy from Sandy's Farm & Garden Centre, shared some wisdom with us through their answers to these questions:


In a world often marked by struggle and suffering, where do you find glimpses of unexpected beauty on your farm?

a woman and her dog looking at each other in front of a winter landscape
Sally Shearman

SALLY

I make a point of stopping for a few minutes throughout my workday to look around me and feel gratitude and appreciation for the wealth of natural beauty.  The view over the river valley is something I never tire of, in all seasons.  I love to look inside the many edible and wildflowers I grow and marvel at their intricate interiors. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I will stand with my back against one of the many trees on my farm and feel myself rooted into the ground.  The fruit blossom in spring is a highlight, especially standing under a massive old apple tree, smelling the fragrance of the blossom and listening to the whole tree buzzing with pollinator life.  The animals are all beautiful, in my mind.  Watching them express their natural behaviours, scratching and pecking (chicken), splashing in puddles and billing for worms (ducks), rushing to the best patches of pasture (sheep), working the sheep and ducks to move them from place to place (my Koolie, a herding dog) and the gentleness with which the livestock guardian dogs treat baby animals.  


SANDY

Everywhere! From the greenhouse work seeding our vegetable plants in the winter to the hot summer and flourishing fields, there is beauty in growing produce for the community. Its fulfilling seeing plants start from seed and produce vegetables.


How do planting seeds on your farm connect to your personal dreams and growth, making you think about the deeper links between your own journey and the natural world?


SALLY

I do not plant very many annual crops, but I do propagate fruit trees and bushes by different methods.  When I am working with fruit trees and perennial vegetables, I am always observing and making notes on what grows best and requires the least intervention to thrive. Those are the plants that I will propagate. I have also planted several nut trees, even though it is highly unlikely that I will live to see a crop!  It is my passion to keep planting trees and shrubs to create a food forest that is disease and pest resistant. I collect and save seeds from plants, with a long term goal of creating a closed loop system.  I am passionate about preserving genetic diversity in plant material for the future, as well as identifying trees that are likely to be most adaptable to climate change.

Sandy standing in front of her farm and garden store
Sandy from Sandy's Farm & Garden Centre

SANDY

Farming teaches you that it takes time for hard work to pay off.  From starting the seed in the winter to harvesting in the summer, you learm Patience, discipline is key to having an end result that you are satisfied with.


If your crops had the ability to talk, what kind of conversations do you think they'd have with each other, and would they ever complain about being stuck in the same field all the time?


SALLY

Well, that is an interesting question, because it appears that trees do in fact communicate very effectively through an extensive mycelium network in the soil.  They live in community, and develop a symbiotic relationship with regard to nutrient delivery and pest protection.  I mix plants, trees and shrubs, so there is no monocrop on the farm.  There is a diversity of plant material, and I practice companion planting. Plants also have the ability to signal each other about pest or disease threats.  I find this fascinating.


SANDY

They would definitely complain in the summers when weather isn’t cooperating with the growing season!!


Thank you, Sandy, Sally & Lisa for sharing some of your wisdom and knowledge and fun with us.

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