In 1987, we proudly dedicated our Visitors Center in Cabot, Vermont to Farm Women Everywhere, and as we celebrate our Centennial anniversary, our appreciation has never been stronger. Like all farmers, Cabot farm women have a variety of roles on farms, and their influence on our co-operative and in our communities is immeasurable.
To celebrate them, we asked some amazing Cabot farmers to tell us what they love about farming, what they want people to know about farming, and what it means to them to be women in a profession that’s equally rewarding and challenging—and always changing. We were inspired by their wisdom, passion, and dedication, and we’re excited for you to meet them—in their own words.
Jenni Tilton, Flood Brothers Farm, Clinton, ME
Becoming a woman in the world of agriculture is a special kind of blessing. Learning how to come to terms with that blessing is not easy—but it is rewarding.
This way of life that we live on our farms is all about strength, intelligence, resilience, beauty, dreams, and hard work. Being a member of the Cabot family means being supported, having an extended family clad in plaid, and being a farmer first, and a woman always. It’s never an easy road, being a woman, but neither is being a farmer—that must be why Cabot women are such amazing farmers.
Becoming a dairy farmer is a dream come true. It’s not an easy road, and like anything difficult the stumbling blocks are best negotiated with friends and those who support you. Depend upon family, learn from friends, build your village to support you, and always hose off your boots before you head back into the house.
Beth Hodge, Echo Farm Puddings, Hindsale, NH
Being a woman Cabot farmer means being part of an elite “wolf pack.” As farmers, we spend a lot of time with our cows and employees on our farms and we probably don’t get to spend much time off the farm. But I know that there are other Cabot women out there that I can always connect with. I’m part of a community of women who are all struggling every day, but still getting up and showing an amazing capacity for leadership and a strength of character that I am forever trying to live up to. While there are probably many groups of women out there doing the same things, this is MY Wolf Pack and I always know they have my back.
We’ve been pretty lucky to have some amazing women work on our farm over the last 15 years, many of whom started out as 4-Hers, then employees, and always friends. “Our girls” have aspired to and been very successful working in the dairy industry. These ladies continue to impress us with their incredible passion, and we love the idea that we had a small part in helping to develop that passion!
Theresa Freund, Freund’s Farm, East Canaan, CT
At the age of 16, the job of milking cows was how I got my foot in the door of the barn. I developed a real sense of pride, whether it was efficiently milking the herd or the graceful scraping of the barn. The importance of the daily chores of the dairy has always been held as supreme, even as I have evolved away from the daily tasks of the dairy.
It is with great pride that three of our four children are choosing to take that step in continuing the legacy of hard work with a real pride for the product they are involved in producing – healthy, wholesome milk, and the base ingredient for all good Cabot products!
Nicole Fletcher, Fletcher Farm, Southhampton, MA
Being a woman farmer means having to work just as hard as the boys, and doing my best to show them up. Being a part of the Cabot co–operative means that the product of my hard work (the milk) gets turned into delicious dairy products such as cheese and butter that I can use when I am baking and cooking. I love to bake, and it’s even more fun when you get to use ingredients that you helped create!
Women farmers are a special group, and the Cabot women are no exception. It’s a unique mix of New England humor and sarcasm along with an unending desire to succeed and to make each year better than the last. [Farming] is such a rewarding career in the sense that you can be outside, work with animals alongside your family, and also enjoy the seasons. It is a challenging job because it requires long hours and attention to detail, and the need to be both physically strong and mentally focused. Caring for animals is such a great way to spend each day, and I believe that women farmers have a special nurturing quality towards the cows.
Deb Erb, Springvale Farms and Landaff Creamery, Landaff, NH
When I was in elementary school in the early sixties, a friend of my father’s asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said a dairy farmer. He laughed and laughed. In college, I studied veterinary technology. After graduating, I worked as a vet tech for many years. My family have long been dairy farmers, and my grandfather was on the board of NEMPA (Agri-Mark’s predecessor coop). I have tried to represent all farmers in the roles I have taken in many agricultural organizations. There are days when I don’t remember I am the only female on the Cabot board because I don’t think of myself that way. I am a dairy farmer in a long line of dairy farmers, just trying to make things better for my fellow dairy farmers.
Amy Richardson, Richardson Family Farm, Hartland, VT
I didn’t grow up on a farm, but have always liked working outdoors, the different seasons, and the company of large animals. Upon joining the Richardson family, I soon became an active participant in the diversified farm business. Since then I have worked side by side with my husband, as we raise three sons here in Hartland, Vermont. I believe their upbringing on this farm will be an asset to their entire lives.
Our lives are intertwined with the changes of each season and with the lives of the animals we care for. As a woman farmer, I enjoy an active lifestyle with time spent outside every day. Dairy farming has given me a wonderful, constantly challenging lifestyle, and a sense of pride in the hard work we do because we play an important role in Vermont’s rich agricultural heritage. If you like working outside, don’t mind getting dirty, like the smell of freshly cut grass, growing your food, spending time with family, like the beautiful eyes, unique faces and personalities of dairy cows, and like dairy products, then go for it, you can do it!
Samantha Staebner, Whittier Farm, Sutton, MA
Farming provides me with the opportunity to work with my family every day while keeping agriculture alive and well. That’s what I love. I farm because agriculture is in my blood and my heart. Being a woman on the farm is no different than being a man.
Whether male or female, I hope that people understand farmers are sharing their story because we care. We care for the land and the animals but also for your family. Our job is to produce quality agricultural products, such as the quality milk for Cabot’s cheese and dairy products.
I want people to know that we’re family too. 97% of America’s dairy farms are family owned. When we sit down for dinner, gathered as family, we’re eating the food we produced for your family too. We want to produce a product that is not only safe for your family and ours but one that tastes amazing and we can all be proud of.
Kies Orr, Fort Hill Farms, Thompson, CT
What I love about farming is knowing that you are providing a wholesome product for consumers to put on their table to feed their family. Being a woman farmer and being the next generation of this farm means a lot to me because I plan to keep my grandfather and father’s hard work going.
Seeing and hearing more women farmers farming makes me feel like the agriculture is heading in the right direction. As a woman farmer, I take it day by day and look at the positives. There are many challenges in life and farming, but we all just keep working through them.
We need to start supporting more local farmers or there will not be much agriculture left. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So please support your neighbor farmer in their crazy farming dream!
Clara Ayer, Fairmont Farm, East Montpelier, VT
What I love about farming is how everything is connected. I love caring for our animals and knowing that I can help create a nutritious product to feed people all over the world. I also love knowing that when we care for our land, we can create high quality forages for our cows as well as preserve the land for future generations.
Being part of a Co-operative that has made it to its 100th birthday provides the feeling of stability and knowing that our milk has a market that will be made into world class dairy products. I stand behind the products 100%—my fridge is filled with them and they are my absolute favorite.
I would love people to know that farming is incredibly complex and innovative. Farmers are constantly using research, science, and technology to be the most sustainable that they can be. We are only successful when we take excellent care of our land and our animals, so that is where we focus all of our efforts.
Amanda Freund, Freund’s Farm, East Canaan, CT
I see an opportunity to be a resource for peers both in my community and online that want to better understand food production. Meeting a woman farmer, and a millennial at that, busts stereotypes. It challenges the assumption that the people growing our food are all old men with pitchforks.
I wrote a series about female farmers for our local newspaper a few years ago. One of the farmers I interviewed was Dottie, an 82-year-old woman who had been farming with her husband since 1948. I thought, she must have confronted obstacles or prejudices as a young woman farmer. But she suggested no such thing. She did not see caring for her children, milking cows, or driving a dump truck as anything less than her equal share. I don’t see any challenges inherent to me being female. The challenges come with being a farmer.
Farmers are so much more efficient and precise with the technology that has been introduced over the past decade. From analyzing the exact nutrient make up of our crop fields to managing herd health through rumination collars and activity trackers (like a fit bit), we are doing more with less. Adopting technology, using apps to monitor our cows, and building more efficient barns to accommodate our cows are designed with the same primary goal: the health and wellbeing of our animals.
Isabel Hall, Fairmont Farm, East Montpelier, VT
To me, being a woman farmer isn’t really any different than being a farmer in general. If anything, we can bring different and unique qualities to the table than male farmers.
Being a female farmer, you have to work a little harder to gain the respect of fellow farmers, because there are less of us and tradition shows men predominantly farming. I think generally women can show compassion more, and that is good for the perception of farming because we aren’t afraid to show the love we have for our animals.
Being a Cabot farmer is great because we can really stand behind the delicious products made with our milk. I think it’s really important for people to know that we really do farm because we love our animals and our land, and we love feeding people.
Kristina Howlett, Champlainside Farm, Bridport, VT
My responsibilities as a calf manager are feeding calves, caring for them when they are sick, and taking care of the newborn calves. One of my favorite things about being a farmer is helping bring new life into the world, teaching them how to suck on the bottle, and helping them to walk because sometimes they need a little encouragement. Knowing that it’s up to me to give the babies everything they need to survive is stressful but extremely rewarding.
Being a woman farmer shows that girls can do anything that men can do. I think seeing and hearing about female farmers will help influence our perception and encourage other young women who may look at careers in agriculture. The main challenges that I keep facing are men and some women underestimating the power and knowledge that female farmers have. Most people don’t believe that I know how to run the chopper, tractors, or drive the dump trucks, even though that’s what I do pretty much all summer long.
Working with my family and cows every day is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m so grateful to be a farmer. I don’t think a lot of people understand the passion that farmers have. I really have no idea what else I would be doing with my life.