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A Passionate Voice

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Even at an early age, Cheryl Day was a passionate and practical advocate for agriculture. Check out her viewpoint on current agricultural topics.

Missed the Memo

Apr 11, 2011

In a given day, my attire can vary from a business suit to manure on blue jeans. It is all in a day’s work and depends on the agenda for the day. In fact, I openly admit I change my clothes many times in a day. The clothes I wear do not make me a better farmer.

I strongly support Farm Day at my school sponsored by the local FFA Chapter. Bravo to the FFAers for bringing animals, tractors, and the agriculture story to the school grounds. However, the mood last Friday for this farm mom began to sour when I heard my child report that his teacher encouraged the children to dress like a farmer for Farm Day.
First, I am absolutely flattered when children dress up as a role model. I love that they want to be farmers and am open to showing them the way. My sour mood gained momentum when my son reported that his daily wardrobe of jeans, button-down shirt in western cut, boots, and belt did not constitute farm attire in the minds of the teachers or other parents.
So I ask, is this a farmer?
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Is this a farmer?

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In the non-agriculture person’s mind, a farmer looks like this. Right?

 

Picture1

  WRONG

[The first and second photos are farmers and dear friends: First photo is Celeste Settrini, a California rancher, and the second is Pat Yeagle, an Illinois farmer.]
I cannot honestly recall how many years ago I actually wore a pair of bib overalls. They would have been Carhartt bibs for warmth as one layer of clothing. In addition, my husband will place bib overalls over his clothes to protect them from all the dirt, manure, and smell.  But is this a daily attire? No way!
I will not deny that in my grandparents’ day men did choose bibs as the normal article of clothing, and in most rural communities you can find someone who chooses bib overalls. However, picturing every farmer in bib overalls, straw in the teeth, and handkerchief in the back pocket is typecasting.
After discussing the issue on Facebook, I think my fellow farmers eloquently posted my exact thoughts:
"Wait, wearing clothes like everyone else makes you not a farmer?? Missed that memo... Being a farmer is a mindset, not wearing an outfit, last time I checked." –-K. Walker, Past 4-H Member, Cattle Producer, and Post-Graduate Student
"And what exactly does "dress like a farmer" mean?  I am as farm girl as they come, and Cheryl, you have seen the get-ups I can create....Being a farmer is the passion we have in our hearts, not how we decorate ourselves," adds Celeste Settrini (first photo), California rancher, agvocate, and president of California Women for Agriculture.
Furthermore, Trent Loos posted on my wall his Loos Tales Friday radio segment with Debbie Sterkel Borg, a Nebraska farmer who volunteers to speak to students about farming. Loos discussed her recent conversation with students on "what a farmer looks like." Debbie was shocked at the kids’ responses when she asked if she looked like a farmer. Click to listen [connect with Loos Tales at Faces of Agriculture website or nearest radio].
I think the most frustrating thing is that I interact with teachers and parents at the school. I never hide the fact that I and the entire family farms. I too have presented at the school on numerous occasions about farming and I use my children as examples. 
I thought we were trying to cultivate good citizens that do not judge a book by its cover. In fact, my personal farm flair has no reflection on how well I care for my cattle, crops, or the land.
It is just a choice like when a member of my community chooses to wear PJs in public. I did not get that memo either--thank goodness. 
Welcome to the 21st century -- farmers come in all shapes, sizes,
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genders, races,

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and ages.
 
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