This week we are taking the time to honor the farm women in our cooperative. Back in 1987, we dedicated our Visitors Center in Cabot, Vermont to Farm Women Everywhere. Their influence on our Cooperative and in our communities is every bit as important now as it was then.
Today @cabotcheese honors the women of their coop #ontheblog http://ow.ly/JsPVt This #FarmerFriday dedicated to farm women everywhere.
As with all farmers, Cabot farm women have a variety of roles on the farm. There is never a shortage of things to do. The role farm women play is crucial in the success of dairy farms and their communities, whether milking cows, fixing equipment, working in the fields, caring for children, running a farm stay bed & breakfast or farm stand, keeping the books or volunteering in the community. We also have many women who serve on the Resolutions Committee and as voting representatives within the Cooperative. Deb Erb of Landaff, NH serves on the Cabot Board of Directors. Based on this recent Atlantic Article, we’re even more fortunate to have them than we knew.
Rachel Freund, Freund’s Farm, East Canaan, CT
It means a great deal to me to be a Cabot Farmer because I get to stand proudly behind the products that my entire cooperative works hard to create. The best part about being a Cabot farmer is getting to work directly with the ladies who produce the wholesome milk. I care for each cow individually; from the moment she freshens, all through her lactation, and I am excited for when she is ready to conceive again. Their health is in my best interest, because not only does it make my day easier, but also it is much more comfortable for her to be physically able to do what cows love to do: chew their cud, sleep, and poop! Every farm has animals with personalities, and our farm has a handful of curious creatures, as well as nervous and more personal cows too. As I work patiently with each of these personalities, the cows and calves provide me with opportunities for self-improvement and problem solving. I love that most about my job, that it is always changing and always challenging me to learn new lessons along with balancing the daily tasks of dairy farming.
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. As a Young Cooperator member of Agri-Mark, we visited Cabot that first year during the summer program: seeing firsthand the detail and precision that went into the Cabot products.
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. Our retail farm market is the direct contact with our local consumers.
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!
Jenni Tilton, Flood Brothers Farm, Clinton, ME
What does being a woman Cabot farmer mean to you?
Being a girl in this world has its own hurdles, and its own gifts. Growing up a girl is a challenging opportunity. 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.
Being a Cabot farmer who happens to be a woman means being able to be all the imperfections and all the darn near perfections that a woman naturally is…but more. 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 Cabot farmers.
What advice would you give to a young woman who aspired to be a dairy farmer?
Having an aspiration is the first step to realizing a dream. Becoming a dairy farmer, for those of us who are, is a dream come true. It’s not an easy road and like anything difficult the stumbling blocks and road blocks are best negotiated with friends and those who support you. No one should become a dairy farmer alone, and no woman should ever have to try to attain her dream alone. Depend upon family, learn from friends both old and new, 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
What does being a woman Cabot farmer mean to you?
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 (or in my case, lately, most definitely) 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 on social media that are going through the same things that I am. It’s great to see the things that Cabot women are doing to spread the word about agriculture and connect with consumers every day. I included a picture of my sister, myself and Joanna at Joanna’s wedding a few years ago. We do occasionally get gussied up. I like the idea that I’m part of something bigger than myself, I’m part of a community of women who are all struggling every day but, still getting up and still 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.
What advice would you give to a young woman who aspired to be a dairy farmer?
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, though not always as farmers. We have always pushed them to get involved, to get educated, and to not be afraid to take leadership opportunities that are offered. These ladies continue to impress us with their incredible passion for the dairy industry and we love the idea that we had a small, tiny part in helping to develop that passion!
Nicole Fletcher, Fletcher Farm, Southhampton, MA
Being a woman Cabot farmer means many different things to me. I am so proud of my family dairy farming heritage, and especially in that I am the female farmer around the barn. 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 cooperative 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.
If I were to give a young woman advice about becoming a dairy farmer, I would say go for it! It 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 has long been dairy farmers, 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 have been farming with my husband and family for nearly half my life. 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. We made a choice to farm together, and I also hold two part time positions off the farm. It is a wonderful journey together as spouses and parents. I am the only woman in our family to work directly with the cows every day. I have come to feel the reliance of this family on the work I do, which is very satisfying. We do not hire much outside help on our dairy, and we really try to support each other as family and as farmers. Dairy Farming is a lifestyle that I knew next to nothing about when I married a dairy farmer!
Farming is a demanding career both physically and mentally. I cherish the opportunity to work with my family every day and to bring up our children on a farm. Our lives are intertwined with the changes of each season, with the lives of the animals we care for, and with each other’s’ lives in an uncommon and intense way. Our kids are growing up healthy and familiar with true dedication to a livelihood, by being on the farm and around their parents every day of the week. As a woman farmer I enjoy an active lifestyle with time spent outside every day. I take great satisfaction in knowing that much of the food we eat is grown by us on our own land. I am grateful for a profession that allows me to work with my husband, and to have brief bits of “free” time together each day as well. I feel lucky that we eat meals together, fix fences together, cut wood together, and care for cows together. I am happy to have chosen a career that allows me to participate directly in producing a high quality, highly nutritious food product that many, many people consume daily.
It’s not all roses…. and choosing to farm as a profession may not suit everyone. It is a challenge to leave our work behind at the end of the day, in part because we live close enough to walk home from our farm. But it’s a blessing to live so close, because our kids have safely run back and forth ever since the time they could run. Now they are older and can realize the experience of living the way we do, will stay with them forever. I believe their upbringing on this farm will be an asset to their entire lives.
I have taken work off the farm as a way to connect with others locally, and as a way to share my experience in and passion for being a dairy farmer. Part of the story I enjoy telling especially youngsters, is how great it is to be in a farmer co-op. All Cabot farmer members are part of a community. We support other members’ farm initiatives, exchange ideas, share experience, knowledge, and stories, and all benefit from the co-op’s success as a dairy brand. We all strive to do the best work on our farms because the rewards are shared by everyone. The cooperative is well known, and well respected locally, nationally, and internationally. There is security in being part of a larger community, and we are glad to have made the choice to be part of this organization. Cabot has supported me as a woman farmer and has given me many chances to share my perspective. Farming and Cabot have a deep history in Vermont, and women are an essential part of the story.
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, caring for and living with cows, growing your food, spending time with family, like the beautiful eyes, unique faces and personalities of dairy cows, like providing an educational resource for your community, and like dairy products, then go for it, you can do it!
Check out Vermont Farm Women by Peter Miller.