Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Adjustments To Rural Life Hard For City-Raised Women

January 5, 2004

Here are some thoughts of a city-raised woman about adjustments had to make when she became a farmer.

- "Look," I told Bob, "I'm the one taking all the risks. It is your turf, your family, your friends, your town, your house, your business. You don't have to change a thing. I have to change everything."

- "I am tied to this place, his family, and this community in ways you can't imagine. I was so lonely for my family. It takes an act of Congress and a stick of dynamite to take a vacation or get away on the holidays. I can't even plan time alone with Bob. The cows own me. We do have fun and do a lot of things together. But I had to get used to the fact that our plans were subject to cancellation . . . for perfectly good and understandable reasons.

"Even our daily routines are subject to change. I am expected to drop everything and help him at a moment's notice. Bob sees things from the farm perspective, and unless I keep on my toes, he will put the farm first every time. I've had to stand my ground and help him see that I and the family come first. He is not always right."

- "I'd give anything for a 40-hour work week. I wasn't prepared for all the lonely evenings when Bob was finishing his work. Being on a farm adds a ton of responsibility to my life also. Life on a farm is busier than I ever dreamed."

- "A farm is a dangerous place. When Bob doesn't come in when he is supposed to, I get an uneasy feeling and wonder if he is OK. I trust him, but there is so much that can go wrong. Hailstorms, droughts, blizzards - I've seen them all and I hate them all. It takes a lot of faith to believe and trust God that all this will work out."

- "I've had to learn to live on a draw, sacrifice for that ‘great tomorrow,’ budget, keep books, keep track of cash flow, and live with great pressures. We depend on ourselves and nobody else. One major mistake and a large farm can become a small farm in a hurry. Another thing I've had to get used to is debt. I am still trying: I don't like borrowing."

- "When I saw all the things farm women do, my self-esteem took a tumble. I thought, ‘Wow, how am I going to learn all that? I'll never be a farm wife.’ Then I thought, ‘I don't even like doing all those things.’ And if I didn't make an effort to learn, I'd feel guilty.

"When I felt that way, I tried to remember that my husband didn't marry me for those skills. I decided that it was OK for me to be different and contribute in my own way and at my own speed. He married me for what I was, and, at the time, farming didn't have anything to do with it."

- "Being in business with his family is a whole story in itself. I had no idea of the amount of coordination and involvement we would have with his parents. We really have to communicate to keep things on an even keel. I feel so lucky compared to some other families I know.

"I kept asking a lot of ‘dumb’ questions and learning so I could feel like a partner with my husband. If I hadn't done that and hadn't insisted on being a part of the decision-making, I have the feeling I'd still be on the outside looking in on ‘their’ farm and ‘their’ business.

"I was expected to know how to operate farm equipment and do the right things at the right time the first time. I'm sure Bob has had to suppress a good laugh or his dismay at my ignorance. Sometimes I amaze myself with how much I've learned."

- "I shop for a week or a month at a time. I resented the demands of preparing big meals at the last minute for unexpected guests. I learned to stock up and have a few quick recipes. I had to learn to be truly hospitable. I keep lists, lists and more lists. I'm sent on important errands without having the foggiest notion of what I am doing."

- "Everybody here knows everybody else's business. Community opinion has a lot of power here. I've had to learn not to make waves. Change isn't always welcomed. I've had to learn when to be honest and when to be diplomatic. Most of the time, it is diplomatic. It bothered me to learn from our neighbors or relatives what we were doing."

- "At first, I didn't like it. I felt like it was an unnatural way to live. I felt lonely, criticized, inadequate, spied on, and taken advantage of every time I turned around. But it got easier as time went on.

"How could I adjust to a strange and different way of life? I had to! And now I love it. I could spend hours mentioning the good things too . . . like the companionship I feel with Bob, what farming does for kids, being our own bosses, my love for animals and nature, the caring neighbors, and the personal accomplishment that comes with farming. If that weren't a part of the package, I don't think I could have made it as a farm woman."