Women’s Work

Cherie and I both work full time on the farm. This time of year we both work very long days, every day. Without both of us, it couldn’t get done.

When we send out emails to our customers, or our weekly newsletter, the signature block always has both of our names. We try to emphasize as frequently as we can that we are a partnership, and that the farm belongs to and is run by both of us.

It can be frustrating, particularly for her, when people fail to recognize that. Often the responses to our emails will be addressed only to me. Sometimes a response comes back addressed to me even if Cherie signed her name only to the original email.

We split the duties with social media, but Cherie authors and posts most of them. Yet almost without fail if someone responds to them they use my name only. Cherie will post something on Facebook and responses will be things like “Thanks Bill!” Or “Bill: here’s our order…” or “Great photo Bill!” Recently it was happening so frequently that Cherie wondered what folks think she does around here.

I know it’s frustrating for her when people seem to perceive that the farm is me, and me only. Some of this may be attributable to enculturated gender roles and stereotypes. It happens in lots of other ways too.  In our household Cherie is the one with the mechanical skills so most household fix-up projects are done by her. But she’s told me about asking questions in hardware stores and having workers there explain to her what she should tell her husband about the items she is buying (they assume she is just buying the item, and that her husband will be the person using it).

Hopefully these ways of thinking are changing. After all, 30% of U.S. farmers are women.

For the women farmers out there I’m sure you don’t need to hear this, but for everybody else, we need to start putting to bed the old stereotypical image of farmers as men only. These days that is simply not the case.

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16 comments on “Women’s Work

  1. Bill, I’m assuming that you alone are running this blog but I do understand how it could be frustrating for women to overcome the certain job duty stereotypes. I have found that when help in the home improvement store is needed, women are many times more knowledgeable about what I’m looking for. I suspect it comes from having to be much better at the job just to compete in the normally male job position. Women continue to have lower salaries for the same jobs in the market place. You are awesome to bring the situation to the attention of the readers and support your wife’s contributions to the farm.

    Have a great working together farm day.

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    • Bill says:

      I think you’re right Dave. Often women probably have to overcome the perception that they’re less capable of performing the traditionally male jobs than men. I’ve seen big changes in that in the law business over the past 30 years, but in plenty of places those old ways of thinking still linger on.

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  2. shoreacres says:

    No deep social analysis this morning, but a couple of practical suggestions.

    When I started reading your blog, I started reading Cheri’s, too. But it’s really hard to keep up with hers. There’s no way to follow her blog — no RSS, no email subscription form — and I can’t even click over to it from your blog. If you were to add a link to Cheri’s blog here, I’d be far more likely to make reading hers a part of my routine. And, if I could sign up via email, new posts from her would land in my inbox, where I deal with things pretty quickly.

    I have friends on blogger who’ve added a place to subscribe in both those ways, so I know it can be done. There may be ways for other Blogger users to follow that I don’t know about.

    I’ve recommended her blog to other of my friends who aren’t on Facebook, but they’ve all found it a little hard to get in the routine of reading. Even this morning, I had to go to your WFFarm website to find the link to Renaissance Garden.

    Another suggestion: how about redoing your Twitter accounts and posting as WhiteFlintBill and WhiteFlintCheri? It actually would give you both a higher profile and make clear that there are two people involved.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Linda. I’ll pass those ideas on to Cherie. She does a great job with her blog and it deserves a good level of readership.

      Cherie recently started using Twitter again, but right now all she’s done is link it to our FB account, so that whatever we post on FB also goes up on Twitter. Neither of us have any experience with Twitter so we’re not utilizing it very well.

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  3. Jeff says:

    Shoreacres brought up an interesting point: I had no idea that Cheri even had a blog! I think Linda’s idea of having Cheri adding an e-mail subscription form to her blog is an excellent idea. It is very hard for me to keep up with contacts if I have to make an effort to go find them. Another idea. Why not consider the idea of having an occasional “guest” post by Cheri on your blog? Perhaps she would let you post occasionally as a “guest” on her blog, too?

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    • Bill says:

      I like her idea of linking Cherie’s blog here too. We have them both linked on the farm’s website but haven’t put links on each others blogs.

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  4. ain't for city gals says:

    It is not just farming. My husband and I build houses….one house at a time. We do ALL the work ourselves. I don’t know what people think I do but most times what they say makes me laugh. We just finished doing the landscaping…it turned out beautiful. The comments are funny….as in “wow, Larry did an amazing job”! To Larry’s credit he looks them straight in the eye and says “It was all Sheryl…from design to implantation”…I just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg book Lean In. I thought I wouldn’t care for it but she had some very good points on this matter.

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    • Bill says:

      That is exactly the same kind of thing we experience. After one recent series of things like that Cherie said, “Do people think I just sit at home eating bon bons all day?”

      Of course I can’t know what it feels like, but I got a little taste of it recently when one of our customers came to the farm to pick up her order. Cherie handles things like that and I’ve only met this customer once. She commented to Cherie that she didn’t know how Cherie managed to handle everything on the farm by herself. Cherie laughed and told her that we both did the farm work. When she told me that story I had to wonder what the woman thought I did all day. Sit in the house watching TV?

      Anyway, being a husband/wife business in a traditionally male occupation I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

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  5. valbjerke says:

    That backwards attitude is found in all walks of life – I used to own a garage with my (ex)husband. I did the books, hiring, mechanical, rebuilt transmissions etc. There were always customers who thought I was along for a free ride and I should go out and get my own job and not ride on my husbands coat tails 😒. For the last ten years I’ve worked in another garage as the only transmission rebuilder – there are customers who still think my boss has personally fixed their transmission – despite the fact he hasn’t picked up a wrench in years. It matters little to me really – I have a good sense of humor about it and don’t feel the need to prove anything to anybody anyway – my work speaks for me.
    Farming has always been a team effort. Our little operation wouldn’t function at all without both my husband and I dividing the work and recognizing what each of us is particularly good at.
    There will always be people who are truly narrow minded – I had a fellow tell me once that women should never have been allowed out of the kitchen. I replied that he’d obviously never tasted any of my cooking 😄
    Tell Cherie that for every one person who thinks she stays at home scrubbing the floors all day, there are likely fifty more who know very well that she’s your partner in all things.

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    • Bill says:

      With your job and experience, you definitely understand. Once Cherie was shopping for a new car and the salesman said he wouldn’t deal with her unless she brought her husband. We homeschooled our children (the “we” in this sentence is generous–Cherie homeschooled our children would be more accurate). Once Cherie had to fill out an application for a homeschool program and it required a signature from the homeschool “principal.” “That would be your husband,” she was told. Cherie handles all the banking for us and recently she went to the bank to change something about our farm’s account, which is in both of our names. She was told that only the principal account holder could make the change, and that was me, despite the fact that I had nothing to do with setting up the account. The bank just assumed that of the two of us, I was the principal person on the account. Et cetera.

      But I think you’re right. As prevalent as that way of thinking still is, mercifully it is dying out.

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  6. Ann Wood says:

    I know Bill did not write his note for us to cheer you on, Cherie, but so you don’t think we all fail to notice…YOU ROCK…as a female, as a farmer and as an example of how precious is the labor of those who work to fulfill their calling….you are amazing…well, you two are both amazing! HURRAH FOR HEARTS SOLD OUT TO HEALTHY LIVING THROUGH HEALTH GIVING FOOD!

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  7. Ann Wood says:

    PS – There are no coattail riders in small business today…it’s either fish or cut bait! These are the businesses that continue to produce for the good of the family and the community!

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  8. EllaDee says:

    People mean well, mostly, I tell myself when the G.O. is gratuitously credited with my efforts by someone, who he is quick to correct. I don’t take it personally but I shake my head… And so now, I’ve liked White Flint Farm’s Facebook page so I can enjoy that as well, and noted where I can access Cherie’s blog 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks. You’re right of course. Most people do mean well. We only notice it when the mistake occurs, not the many times it doesn’t. And it’s true that people who do it often mean well or are genuinely confused. We’ve had some of our good friends do it.

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  9. avwalters says:

    My apologies. I did not know Cherie had a blog. That’s because I found yours–when you found mine. Hello, Cherie, I’ll check yours out, too, now that I know it’s there. My husband and I have similar experiences. He comes from the construction world–and I from the legal world. Now that we’re finally building a house for us–he’s in charge of the building and I’m the assistant. I tend to do the administrative stuff and logistics–because it comes naturally to me. In our publishing venture, I’m the primary writer and he’s the editor. As between us, our decisions are mutual. We’re close enough in world-view, that I’d trust him with most decisions, as he would me. But in our interface with the world, I note that most people tend to prefer to deal with the person they first encountered.

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