Don’t call me a “female farmer”

I’m just a farmer. Not an “invisible farmer”, not a “woman in ag”, just a farmer. Being able to prime a pump and drain a sump does not make me exceptional either. Just another farmer.

I’m not sure, really, why there are so many women-in-ag groups. Their existence suggests the female form is somehow a problem when it comes to twisting wire into a figure 8 knot or developing a new plot. It’s not.

All my life, I’ve watched women farmers at work. My grandmother, mother, neighbours and friends. There’s nothing new – or second-rate – about female farmers.

Nor does being capable with my hands make me any less of a woman. I can totter in stillettos and slosh around in Skellerups. Big deal. So do thousands of other farmers.

Yet today is the International Day of Rural Women and, this week, the Melbourne Museum opened a display it says is the first official documentation of women’s contribution to Australian agriculture.

What am I missing? Why do women flock to special female-only groups and why do so few of us turn up to broader industry events?

What do you think? Are female-only ag forums important to make women feel comfortable expressing ourselves or do they simply reinforce a perception that we’re somehow not able to perform in mixed company?

I’m just not sure.

Snakeoil and women in agriculture please pass the scones

When the local dairy expo advertised it would have a “Women’s Pavilion”, I pondered the possibilities. Striptease? Baby change tables and comfy armchairs for breastfeeding mothers? A new pseudonym for toilets? Surely not!

No, the Women’s Pavilion was chock-full of arts and crafts. Crochet, quilts, preserves. Delightful yet patronising to this farmer who happens to be female and is just as interested in cattle crushes as the next man.

Now I’ve heard on the grapevine that a very high profile ag event plans a nude calendar featuring hunky farming fellas while the women’s contribution will be…recipes. If it is true and I am asked to share my favourite recipe, let’s hope they catch me on a good day.

Speaking of recipes, I was stopped on the side of the road by a salesperson just the other day who had the “solution” for all my farming woes. His special mix will lift our milk solids (fat and protein for the uninitiated), get every single one of our cows in calf, halt mastitis in 48 hours and even cure any mistletoe in neighbouring trees. All I have to do is put 2.5kg of the magic powder in the water trough each day. Nothing else, he was keen to stress.

I asked what was in the magic powder. He would only say that it was humic and fulvic acids, probiotics trace elements and minerals and it was devised by a man in Holland. “It’s a secret recipe,” he explained when I questioned him further. When I quizzed him on the science, he got himself confused and pulled out an abstract of a “study” that I was welcome to read there on the roadside. Said I could Google it. Thanks.

He has no literature, no website and no farmer referees either but a lot of people around here are trying it, he says. What’s more, if it doesn’t cure all my woes, he will give me my money back.

Farm consultant John Mulvany often warns dairy farmers to be wary of spending money on “herbs and spices” for their feed but this takes the whole feed additive bandwagon to new lows.

Dairy farming is highly professional these days. Labs test the soils that grow our grass, the feed that sustains our cows and the milk that they produce for optimum environmental, animal and human wellbeing. So where does snake oil like this fit into that equation? I reckon it’s the agricultural equivalent of the Tattslotto ticket. We all want to dream.