National FFA Week: Celebrating 50 Years of Women in the FFA

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Sue Abers
~Sue Abers

Kennedy said, in her experience, women are physically capable of performing many farm duties.

“There isn’t anything physically demanding for women, (other than work with heavy objects), “Abers said.

“Nobody gets in to farming to get rich. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work,” Abres added when asked what she’d tell students who are contemplating a future in farm work.

All four farmers, by their accounts, have different experiences in the farming industry. The farmers, however, are similar in their hope to see more women enter the field.

~Sue Abers

Katilyn Whalen of Peterson Farm, located on Fluvanna Avenue
Katilyn Whalen of Peterson Farm, located on Fluvanna Avenue

Whalen said she’s experienced a mix of feedback over the course of her farming career.

“I’ve been lucky in how I got into it (farming),” Whalen said. “I’ve never been treated like you couldn’t do certain things. I’ve been working on the farm since I was 10, and I was doing the same things my brother was doing.”

Whalen said any negative feedback from the general public has subsided over the years.

“People are changing their minds on what a farmer looks like.”

Whalen acknowledged that farming can be a demanding field when asked what advice she’d give to students interested in farming.

“The industry as a whole is difficult. There’s a lot of hardships, so get your foot in the door with an established place,”Whalen said. “Put in the work, but know that you may have to work just a little bit harder.”

~Katilyn Whalen of Peterson Farm, located on Fluvanna Avenue

Brandi Jo Nyberg
Brandi Jo Nyberg

Brandi Jo Nyberg, of Sauntering Farms in Mayville. Nyberg said that she’s happy to see that there are more female farmers both locally and nationally.

“For me, it’s wonderful and it’s important because in the last several decades, women have become more prevalent (in farming),” Nyberg said, adding that women are naturally very good nurturers.

Nyberg was asked what advice she’d give students who are exploring a farming career. Nyberg said she would tell students to cease listening to the critics.

“Stop listening to everyone who is telling them that they’ll become a poor farmer, and take advantage of any education opportunity that they can.”

Nyberg stated that there are several routes that students can take to obtain farming experience both paid and unpaid.

~Brandi Jo Nyberg

Michelle Enos, Sugar Grove
Michelle Enos, Sugar Grove

Michelle Enos, of Sugar Grove, told the Jamestown Gazette that she believes farming is being done mostly as a hobby. In addition, Enos said there are times when the man will go back to work a full-time job while the woman stays home to take care of the animals.

“Somebody has to do the work,”Enos said. “I think a lot of our farming today is it’s not just strictly farming. They’re doing it as a hobby more than anything. Farming is not paying the bills.”

“If everything can be handed down to them, they don’t have to go into debt for it, go for it,” Enos added. “Farming is a dying industry in our area….I would love to see more young ladies get into it. I think they have a head for it. I think they can handle it.

~Michelle Enos, Sugar Grove

~Sam Vanstrom, Kennedy NY
~Sam Vanstrom, Kennedy NY

“Being a farmer is all about balance and going with the seasons. Even though you’re always busy and the to-do list is never-ending, being connected to the land and the animals makes you slow down and notice a lot more. And when the profit margins are non-existent like they so frequently are, I remember that it’s really a way of life we’re trying to preserve. I want my kids – and their friends – to know about and enjoy the natural world the way I’ve been blessed to know it.”
~Sam Vanstrom, Kennedy NY

 

~Donna Eisenstat
~Donna Eisenstat

“My husband and I have been operating Toboggan Hill Farm in Westfield since 2011. It’s a diversified farm with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, a market garden, and a sugaring operation, and I have been involved with every aspect of the farm. I feed and water the animals, tend the garden in summer, collect sap in spring, maintain our website at tobogganhillfarm.com and promote our CSA and farmers’ market stands through Facebook and our email list. My day is usually a nice mix of desk work and strenuous outdoor activity. I like to think it keeps me healthy mentally and physically.”

~Donna Eisenstat