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PROFILES

words by MONICA KRAMER MCCONKEY

a FARM WOMAN defined Picture this. The year is 1865.

The location is a small farm in southern Norway. Anne and her husband report their assets for the census: One and a half bushels of potatoes, a quarter bushel of oats, an eighth bushel of barley, two head of cattle, and three sheep. Two years later the couple leaves their little farm, their families, and the grave of a baby girl to sail on a ship to America with their 10-yearold daughter, my great-great-grandmother. After arriving they travel to central Minnesota where they break ground and create a farm out of prairie. Nine years later, one year after their daughter marries, Anne passes away at the age of 52. That may be all we know of Anne’s story, however it isn’t difficult to fill in the details with hours of back breaking work, crop and livestock loss, celebrating small victories, battling feelings of fear, despair and loneliness, overcoming illness, and always feeling hope for the next season.

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Our farm families are in the midst of difficult times. USA Today noted, “Nationwide, net farm income has fallen by more than half since 2013, and it’s expected to drop another 6.7 percent this year — to the lowest level since 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture.” Many are wondering if they will be able to hang on for another year to the life and land that generations before them worked to establish. At the very heart of these farm and ranching families are the women. Women who have all too often been relegated to checked boxes of homemaker, housekeeper, Mrs. (insert husband’s name), general farm laborer, or most unthinkable – unemployed. These are women with knowledge and skills in the areas of business, accounting, veterinary science, agronomy, construction, human resources, nutrition, child development and so much more, although they often consider themselves unqualified for employment off the farm.

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