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Brenda Rudolph and her "favorite lady in ag," her daughter Vivian, after Brenda got home after being gone all week speaking at the Women in Ag seminars. (Brenda Rudolph, Special to Agweek)

Farms and families are intertwined

The first week in April I had the opportunity to speak at four locations for Women in Ag seminars across Minnesota. My topic was stress and how I handle that.

As I was getting ready to go, my cousin asked how my prepping was going, and I replied, "I'm getting stressed about having to talk about stress. It's ridiculous!" It turned out to be a stress-free, fantastic week.

Throughout the week there was something common among all four seminars. Women would come up to me and share how they want their families back. Women in agriculture want their farms to put their families first. For about the last five years, agriculture as a whole has put the business part ahead of the family part.

Experts tell us in a roundabout way, family needs to be last. I get confused by this because agriculture brags about how they are "family" owned or "family" operated. When family isn't first on your farm, how can we brag about family?

A couple of years ago, I was talking to an "expert" and trying to explain how on family farms what affects the family affects the farm and what affects the farm affects the family. They are one. They need to be intertwined, because that is why we do it. They are intertwined because one makes us better at the other.

I gave her an example of how we had plans and help lined up for when baby No. 2 came to cover my workload. Well, Vivian decided to come unexpectedly almost six weeks early. Within a couple of hours, we had to figure out chores and who would get Everett off the bus because we were at the hospital. This agriculture "expert" told me, "You didn't have adequate day care lined up."

After this, I started paying attention to what the "experts" are saying. The "experts" are telling us family doesn't belong on the farm. They don't say it directly, but they are saying it.

After every talk I gave at the seminars, women would come up to me and say how they want their families first. They want family meals again. They want to spend time with their families in the field. They want to be able to talk to their families and not be so short with each other. They want their families to slow down. They want their farm to slow down. They want to be able to celebrate birthdays with each other. They want to slow down and enjoy what is around them. They want to enjoy each other. They want to pause and enjoy sunsets with each other. Because this is why we do this. Women want their families back. The hard work is worth it because we get to be with our families.

I hear a lot in conversations: "We can't farm like we used to." I wonder, when we think like this, what do we lose. I know there are many women across Minnesota who have lost their families to the noises of agriculture and they want them back. They want to farm like they used to.