An introduction to FarmHer
Welcome to FarmHer. FarmHer started in the early spring of 2013 as a simple photography project. I had recently left an 11-year career in agriculture and was looking for a change of pace. A change of life. Something that would better accommodate my young family. Something that would do good and be something good.
FarmHer was spawned from a truck commercial. The commercial was on during the 2013 Super Bowl, and it showed over two minutes of absolutely beautiful, iconic images of farmers and ranchers in the U.S. I loved the commercial instantly when I saw it.
As someone who grew up in rural Iowa, the granddaughter of farmers, this really resonated with me. As I watched it, I never once thought anything was out of place. It showed agriculture just as I had always seen it portrayed — hard working men.
A few weeks later I happened across an article that pointed out the lack of women shown in that commercial. In fact, 30 percent of primary and secondary producers on farms and ranches in the U.S. are women. That was no real surprise to me. Growing up in Iowa, I knew that most every family farm had a female on it, doing what needs to be done to keep the farm going. What did surprise me is the number of women who are primary operators of their farms or ranches. That article stuck with me, and I woke up the next night and knew that I needed to start photographing women in agriculture in an effort to update the image of agriculture to include women. A lofty goal for sure and no definite plan of how to go about it, but I just knew I needed to start this project as it felt extremely important to me.
I slowly started photographing women in and around central Iowa in order to get the project rolling. After photographing about eight women, I created a simple website and put the images out for the world to see, not knowing if anyone would look or care. To my surprise, people did look and they did care. FarmHer started to get press and the word started to spread. I began selling two styles of T-shirts to help fund the photography project.
Today the project has grown into a wider line of FarmHer, RanchHer and GardenHer clothing and a much wider array of photographs to showcase these women who work so hard to grow our food, fiber and fuel. More recently I have spoken and shared images at conferences for women in agriculture. I love what FarmHer does, what it shows and what it says, and most of all I love sharing it. I have photographed women throughout the Midwest and plan to keep expanding that footprint, showing women in all types and sizes of farm and ranch operations. In the near future I will be expanding the website to have more of a community concept. A place where women in agriculture can share their stories and images. A place where they can connect, share and network with each other. A place for support, education and meaningful conversation.
FarmHer is important because women always have and always will play a significant role in our agricultural systems both here in the U.S. and around the world. It is time for that role to shine. By infusing these photographs into the ‘image’ of agriculture, the perception of a farmer will eventually start to change. By changing perceptions, we will break down barriers. More resources will become available to these women. More young women will see the positives in pursuing a career as a farmer or rancher. More people will know and understand and appreciate where their food, fiber and fuel comes from.
St. Isidore’s Mead Dairy Farm
This is the story of St. Isidore’s Mead and the FarmHer who owns and operates it, Inga Witscher. The evening that I visited the small dairy, founded by Inga, was a festive fall night in mid-October. That night Inga and her husband Joe were hosting a launch party for the premier of the show they produce, “Around the Farm Table,” on Wisconsin Public Television. As I pulled into the iconic looking farm, nestled in the rolling hills of Osseo, Wisconsin, just outside of Eau Claire, I was instantly intrigued.
Though I didn’t know a soul, I walked in the door and was warmly greeted by friends and family of the couple. I made my way around the gathering, making small talk and nibbling on the delicious cheese, made right there at their farm. Towards the end of the party Inga snuck away to change into a pair of overalls and her rubber work boots to gather up “the girls” for their evening milking.
Inga and Joe practice rotational grazing at their farm by moving the herd every 12 hours to a new part of the pasture to graze on naturally growing grass. The grass is then allowed to grow back before the cows feed on that section again. I followed her with my camera out into the pasture as she gently herded the Jersey cattle up to the barn for their evening job. As we walked, the sun was low and cast a brilliant golden glow across the valley. It was a perfect setting to capture images of this festive night on a Wisconsin dairy.
Once they made their way into the barn, I watched as Inga steadily moved among the cattle, preparing the machinery. As she worked, we talked. She shared with me that she was raised on her family’s dairy farm on the eastern coast of the U.S. She did not initially set out to be a dairy farmer, but as a young adult found herself looking for something to do with her life and was encouraged by her father to start her own dairy. Though unsure that is what she wanted for her life, she secured a loan with the USDA, started St. Isidore’s Mead and never looked back. Witscher knew this was the life she had been looking for — a return to her roots.
As so many farmers and ranchers do, Inga takes great pride in sharing her passion for farming and agriculture. The thoughtfulness, care and concern that Inga and Joe have for farming is not only evident on their farm, but also on their show, which can be streamed over the internet from the Wisconsin Public Television website. On the show, now in it’s second season, Inga travels throughout the state, visiting farms and highlighting their produce in her cooking.
To see stories of Inga and other FarmHers and RanchHers, follow the FarmHer journey at www.FarmHer.com and @Farmher1 on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.