Please click here and watch the ninety-second trailer for a fun little documentary, Ladies of the Land. I’d heard about the film and its director/producer, Megan Thompson, was kind enough to send me a copy.
Ladies of the Land chronicles the rise of single women in farming. The documentary profiles four women farmers, mostly middle-aged, showing how they got into the job and the joy they receive from it. The film didn’t teach me anything I didn’t know, but it is touching and funny by turns and gave me a warm feeling of solidarity.
I am not personally acquainted with anyone who is trying to do what I am doing. I do know a few women, mostly younger, who are farming but they are either just out of college, working as interns, or farming alongside their husbands, who pull half or more of the weight.
Swimming against the mainstream can be lonely. For me it’s nothing new. I’ve been odd man out as long as I can remember, a child buried in a book or slipping through the woods, lost in a daydream. I’m Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, evading Tarleton’s men! My siblings thought I was peculiar. (I was peculiar.) In school I found girls’ cliques baffling. My interests — nature and history — were always so different from those of anyone I knew. It wasn’t until I was a new mother in my twenties that I had something powerful in common with females my age and developed a real network of women friends.
Still, trying to homestead farm in the 21st century, especially in a non-farming area, brings one to a whole new level of “different.” Most people just can’t understand the impulse. Milk a cow? Raise pigs and sheep? Learn carpentry? Of course I’m odd, eccentric, strange. (O.B. remarked to my friend Larry that as a child I must have eaten a few too many paint chips!) I’ve also heard I’m a lesbian. Or turning into the Unabomber.
Meanwhile DH is supportive but doesn’t share my passion for the pastoral. If I’m something out of Laura Ingalls Wilder, he’s half city boy, loving art galleries and opera, and half Jeremiah Johnson, footloose, a mountain explorer, always wanting to know what’s beyond the next peak. His involvement in the farm is minimal. He’s only been inside my barn a couple of times. At dinner he will pause ceremonially with his fork and knife held over a steak, inquiring, “Which bull is this?”
I have always found like-minded companions in history books. And, in recent years, on the internet.
In 2004 I joined a list of about 20 family cow owners, mostly women, from around the country. Now the KEEPING A FAMILY COW message board has over 2000 members from all over the world. What is happening with Midge’s Jersey herd in New Zealand? How is Claire’s Guernsey, Isabelle, in Ohio? What’s the news from Jessika in Maine or Tammy in Virginia or Liz in Texas or Laurie in Kansas or Janene in Nebraska or Regina in Oregon?
KFC has become a community of friends and far-flung “neighbors” who celebrate each other’s successes and grieve for each other’s losses. We share cooking recipes and deworming regimens, brag about our canning or show off our gardens and new babies. When Katika was sick, it was Milkmaid the pre-vet student in Wyoming that I longed to have by my side. We come together from all different backgrounds and belief systems. What we have in common is our connection to the land.
Ladies of the Land carries a similarly heartwarming affirmation for women interested in farming: You may be unusual, but you’re not alone.
A cheerful little film, with terrific music that will make smile and tap your toes, if not jump up and finish mucking the barn. Watch it if you can.