The “So God made a farmer” commercial first seen during the 2013 Super Bowl continues to serve as a conversation starter or stopping point. Every time it is shared on social media, I stop, click and watch. I smile, I cry and hope for good things for tomorrow’s farmers. The day after it aired, I penned this post titled “Girl Power” and included this picture:
It was the one of just three shots of females in the commercial. I captioned it with: “This is still me, my daughter, my sister, my niece and every other girl who finds that moment when she knows that the world is at her fingertips if she works twice as smart and twice as hard.”
One state over, in Iowa, another woman was giving a little thought to the Ram commercial, too. Marji Guyler-Alaniz had just left her career in agribusiness, had seen the commercial, remembered fondly her grandparents farm and her uncle as the family’s farmer, and like so many didn’t really notice the lack of women shown. Then she read a piece in the Des Moines Register Star asking, ‘where were the women in ag?’
Her wheels started turning and the project, FarmHer was born. Marji put her undergraduate degree in graphic design and photography to work, snapping pictures of women in agriculture. She started sharing the photos on social media with #FarmHer. The brand took off. Women from all walks of agriculture began claiming the farmHer title and connecting with other farmHers.
“We can learn so many things from a picture. A picture, like the [Ram] commercial, can teach us so much,” she said during our interview.
I had the privilege of speaking recently with Marji about the newest extension of the FarmHer project – FarmHer on RFD-TV. Debuting on September 9, viewers have seen farmhers from all across the country. Its a ‘day in the life’ pared down to 30 minutes of true reality TV.
“I knew they wouldn’t glamorize this,” Marji said of her partnership with RFD-TV. “This isn’t reality TV like we know reality TV.”
Raquel Gottsch is the executive producer of the show and is intimately involved with every detail. Her passion to share the story of women in agriculture radiated through the phone when we talked.
Raquel’s family are the founders of RFD-TV and she admits to learning about agriculture through that medium. But now, creating FarmHer episodes inspires her. “I want my own farm. I want dirt under my fingernails,” she laughs.
Starting her own farm might have to take a back burner, as she and Marji crisscross the country weekly capturing stories that air each Friday night on RFD-TV. They are committed to showcasing every type of farmHer and ranchHer, even those who work in agribusiness or as student leaders. Last week’s episode highlighted the five young women who recently served as national officers for the National FFA Organization.
While they have met unique, extraordinary women at every turn, both Raquel and Marji mentioned 80-year old farmHer Barbara Mazurek from Texas. After a farming accident took her husband, Barbara continued to manage the family’s 6,000 plus acre ranch. Her perseverance in the face of tragedy and challenge struck Raquel and Marji.
They agreed that Barbara’s ability to pick up and keep going captures the true essence of women. “Its women before its farming,” Marji says of the program. “We are all the same.”
And that is the truth. As we talked about upcoming episodes, what they have learned, how they handle their own lives (kids, career, travel, etc.), I kept coming back to the cornerstone of advocating for agriculture – in order to share about our farms, we must first connect with our values. FarmHer does just that. It is about all ‘Hers’. Its about women working, supporting, trail-blazing, surviving, challenging, leading, succeeding, sometimes failing but always enjoying their lives.
I asked Raquel how men have reacted to all the hype over farmHers. “Men have been very supportive,” said Raquel. In fact, she says on shoots farmers are pitching the stories of the other farmHers in their lives – wives, mothers and daughters who are integral to the success of the families’ business.
Tune in for episodes featuring fellow Illinois farmHers Jenny Mennenga from LeRoy, IL (airing Spring 2017) and Beth Rylander from Oneida (airing Nov. 11). For more information about the show, air times and episode dates visit http://farmher.com/pages/RFDTV. You can also nominate yourself or a fellow farmHer to be considered for future tapings.