Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the contributions that women are making to agriculture and to some special women who have inspired me. So why celebrate this day? International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. In particular, International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban.
I don’t think it is difficult to argue that traditional agriculture was a male-dominated industry. That’s not to say that women didn’t contribute, but they were not front-in-center in decision-making roles. Women kept the home and raised the children, but they also helped with planting, harvesting, did chores, milked cows and often kept a flock of chickens and had egg money or “pin money”, which contributed greatly to the household income. Fast forward from the mid-1900’s to 2016, where 28.7% of women are farm operators. As farm numbers decline and average farm sizes grow, men and women are contributing more equally to the workload.
For myself, I’ve actively been involved in the farm my whole life, doing everything from gathering eggs, placing chicks, mowing the lawn, painting barns, meeting with bankers and accountants, to sweeping barns and doing endless amounts of paperwork. I expanded my role in the industry to being elected a Director for Egg Farmers of Alberta (I’m now in my 11th year) and serving as Vice Chair and Chair. I’ve sat on many industry committees and love being engaged in agricultural education work.
Throughout the years, I’ve met many egg-ceptional women who inspire me on a daily basis:
Firstly, the General Manager of Egg Farmers of Alberta, Susan Gal, has been employed by the egg industry for well over 25 years. Her vast knowledge of the intricacies of the Canadian egg industry is amazing! She is always willing to share that knowledge and she has often mentioned that her greatest pride is helping people become a better version of themselves!→
Secondly, Erna Ference, former Chair for Alberta Chicken Producers. She is a tremendous role model for all of us. Her ability to work through issues and gain consensus, as well as her strong teamwork mentality inspires me to improve myself as director. She is a passionate champion for Supply Management and always takes time to advocate for our industry at all levels of government. Her dedication to a healthy and fit lifestyle is proof that you can become an athlete at any age!
Carolyn Griffith has been a friend for many years, and I want to be her when I grow up! She is also an egg farmer and has been Ontario’s first and only (so far) female Chair for Egg Farmers of Ontario. I need to include 2 photos, because the second photo speaks volumes about Carolyn. She is so generous to her family, friends, and community, as witnessed by the photo of her Canada 150 calendar cover shot. She and four other friends put together this fun calendar to raise money for the Women’s Rural Resource Centre in Strathroy, Ontario. →
And finally, this beautiful lady is my momma! This photo was taken at her 80th birthday and she still looks fantastic. Both she and my dad were true pioneers settling in a new country after immigrating from Germany and building a home and business out in the bush. She inspires me with her hard work ethic and her dedication to her family!
I was part of a study done by Jodey Nurse-Gupta on Farming Diversity: Women’s Past, Present and Future in the Canadian Egg Industry. It is a great read for all of us in the egg industry, but this word cloud jumped out at me. It identifies the words frequently used by participants when describing the greatest benefits of being involved in a farm organization.