We are excited to continue our series of “Straight from the farm…” stories and articles written by some of our fellow farmers! The next in the series of stories is included below and has been written by Betty K. Munsey of Bland County, Virginia.
Submitted by Betty K. Munsey
Women from all over the Commonwealth—Frederick to Fluvanna, Lee to Lunenburg, Rappahannock to Russell and most points in between—traveled to Hot Springs for a special conference. Some of the younger women in their late teens were experiencing their first such event whereas some of the older ladies, probably in their eighties, were multiple repeat attendees. Age was not a disparaging difference nor was hometown locations divisive because these women came together with the one common goal of “Living for Agriculture”.
The Homestead Resort was a fitting location for this annual Virginia Farm Bureau Women’s Conference since early farms were lovingly referred to as a homestead. The view from my Homestead room revealed elaborately landscaped lawns, carefully placed flower beds, bubbling fountains, and uniformed bellmen which was quite a change from the window view most farm women see on a daily basis. We’re more accustomed to the view from our back or front porches with livestock grazing in nearby fields, our husbands or other family members wearing Carhartt jackets passing on the tractor, and the big yellow school bus on its way down our rural roads carrying its precious cargo to school.
Farm women awaken daily to concerns about their livelihood–rising prices of supplies, equipment, fuels, and insurance–as well as the health and safety of their husband and business partner. High statistics for on-farm accidents reflect only a breath away from a disaster for her and her husband in the event of a deadly accident. Worry about the future of the farm and steps to pass it along to the next generation if they so chose are paramount in the concerns and work plans for this farm group as well as its individual members. Many farm women work off the farm to supplement on-farm incomes and in many cases to provide insurance for family members and are often stressed to their limit both financially and emotionally.
Yet for this one weekend unfinished farm projects that always seem to need immediate attention will be replaced by a few well deserved hours of relaxation, encouraging and insightful workshops, and thought provoking speeches. One of the keynote speakers was LaDonna Gatlin, kid sister of the famous Nashville-based Gatlin Brothers and an entertainer in her own right, who motivated her audience while performing a variety of golden oldies with her unique vocal range.
These farm women executives certainly don’t fill the mold of a typical farm wife as portrayed on such classic television shows as Green Acres or Petticoat Junction. As the conference’s mistress of ceremonies requested all cell phones be turned off or turned to vibrate, she resembled a football coach sending in game plans as many at each banquet table reached into their purses to follow her request. These ladies are technologically up-to-par with their urban sisters relying on computer updates for the latest local weather predictions, Facebook and other forms of personal media providing daily interactions with family and friends, and the internet for the latest farm business information. Many use sophisticated computer systems to record and manage their farm’s business expenses and tax information.
Working day-to-day with agriculture they are deeply aware of the importance of healthy living with plenty of exercise in fresh unpolluted air, and eating locally grown foods. The conference goodie bags were filled with granola bars, bottled water, soy nuts, and other Virginia grown products. These women praised their Creator for their blessings and responsibilities as farmers and weren’t ashamed or afraid to publically pray and thank God. They proudly stood in a strong united voice pledging allegiance to America and America’s principles.
This Virginia Farm Bureau Women’s Group was truly reflective of farm women who are caring yet strong willed managers, co-owners and many cases sole owners of farms—the backbone of our American economy.
The mission of the Farm Bureau Women’s Program is to promote agriculture and educate our communities of its improtance. To learn more about the Women’s Program or to become involved, visit http://vafarmbureau.org/MemberPrograms/FarmBureauWomen.aspx