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Brenda Rudolph and her daughter Vivian. (Submitted photo)

Run in with Congressman provides a teaching moment

On Dec. 18, my husband and I milked cows together on our small dairy farm. I left the barn and got myself and my daughter Vivian ready. Vivian and I headed to Albany for a Focus on Farming program put together by KASM radio. There was panel discussion on the new farm bill and various topics about farming. I am not in Rep. Collin Peterson’s district, but growing up I was. He says he represents dairy farmers and I am a dairy farmer.

Peterson claimed a stat about small farms I questioned to myself during the panel. I took to my phone and emailed someone I knew would have the right answer or could back up Peterson’s claim. I still wanted to know for sure what Peterson said or did I hear him incorrectly.

As soon as the panel discussion was over, I grabbed my daughter’s hand and headed to the stage to ask Peterson to clarify his statement. I stood in front of the table and politely waited till he was finished with his conversation to the person next to him. He stood and turned away from me. I really wanted my question answered so I took myself and Vivian to the side of the stage to address him. As he walked towards me he began to avoid me again, I stepped in front of him introduced myself asked politely for my clarification. He didn’t stop. He didn’t look at me. He didn’t have the time of day for me. Nodded his head to his statement and continued walking.  

There have been times in my life I have been brushed off because I am a woman. Whether it be talking about farming or anything I “shouldn’t” know anything about because I am a girl. Usually when that happens is I politely nod my head and know I don’t really need to talk to that person again and move on.

This time was different. On my way home I asked myself what was it that I wasn’t worth a Congressman’s time? What was it that talking about a farm issue that will have an impact on me and my family and my community was not important? Was it because I wasn’t dressed like a dairy farmer? Was it because I was a woman? Was it because I had a small child with me? What was it? There wasn’t a line waiting for follow up questions, it was just me and another farmer. Why?   

I could be upset, but in fact he had given me a huge teaching moment for me to give my daughter. You gave me an opportunity to show my daughter when you want an answer, ask the question. You allowed me to teach my daughter that no matter what, your voice does matter, even if you are a girl. She walked with her mom to the front, not afraid. She held her mom’s hand and walked with her one more step to get an answer. She walked with her mom in a very male-dominated room not afraid. I held my daughter’s hand, showing her how to be involved in something you believe in.

I am a mom. A small business owner. A dairy farmer. A volunteer in my community. A member of rural America. There are many woman like me across rural America. I will continue to ask questions. I will continue to teach my children how to be a voice. I will continue to teach my children if someone doesn’t have time for them move on. I will continue to teach my children to stand up for themselves and others around them. I will continue to teach my children if you believe in something dig your heels in.

Our positions are different, U.S. Representative. Collin Peterson is elected, mine is not.   

Brenda and her husband Nathan, dairy farm in central Minnesota, milking 85 Holsteins. For over 125 years someone in Nathan’s family has been milking cows on their farm. Together they share the workload and two children. You can reach Brenda at brenda@raisingafarmer.com or on her blog: www.raisingafarmer.com.

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