It’s spring. That time of warmth and life, when farmwives’ minds turn to thoughts of… “What the heck am I going to send to the field for supper?”
The real farmwives of Griffin
These days there are several roles for women in agriculture and agribusiness. Women are running their own grain farms, making decisions at agribusiness companies, looking after dairy barns and even editing Grainews.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, for my April birthday two years ago, my mom (who has turned field-meal delivery into an art form) gave me a field-ready Tupperware dual salt and pepper shaker, “to send out to the field with hard-boiled eggs.” Meal preparation still seems to fall to women on most farms I know.
This came up when a bunch of the women in my neighbourhood got together one evening a few weeks ago.
It’s 2012, not 1952, and we were a roomful of women who work on farms, commute to jobs in town, look after children and have community and family responsibilities. Yet still, when someone mentioned taking meals out of the field, everyone had something to say.
One of the neighbours (I’ll call her Sheila, because there’s no way I’m using her real name) kicked things off by saying, “I refuse to take meals out to the field anymore.”
“I haven’t done if for a couple of years now. ‘Bill’ either has to come in for dinner, or take sandwiches with him on the tractor,” Sheila said. “By the time I cooked a meal, packed it up, loaded up the kids, drove to the field and waited for him to eat, it was taking up too much time.”
We didn’t answer — we just gaped with a mixture of horror and admiration. To be honest, I think we may have been less surprised if she’d told us she’d buried a body in her potato patch.
When we married farmers, organizing food during busy seasons just seemed to come as part of the package.
If you’re still lucky enough to have food delivered to your field, in the Grainews spirit of providing helpful farm advice, I offer three tips to keep your meal delivery on track. If you’re the person who prepares the meals, you might want to cut this out and stick it on the fridge door (or maybe the steering wheel of the tractor.)
Tip 1: Take what you get
Believe it or not, some farmers are so spoiled for choice that they actually complain about the food that’s delivered directly to the cab of their tractors. “Janice” told the story of one of her in-laws inspecting the meal she’d taken to the field, then driving to his mom’s farmhouse for something different. Don’t try this at home.
We commiserated with Janice, refilled our wineglasses and shook our heads. Even the best cooks among us have resorted to store-bought cake, frozen pizza and last-minute meals from Kentucky Fried Chicken. We’re busy. Accept it with a smile.
Tip 2: Give clear directions
There is nothing more frustrating than driving up and down dirt roads looking for clouds of dust that might indicate a tractor. Especially with a hungry toddler and a cooling casserole in the back seat.
Lots of women who find themselves delivering hot meals didn’t grow up in the area where they’re living now. Even after being married for 10 years, I still have trouble remembering the names my father-in-law and husband have for different fields. Trust me, telling someone you’ll be at “the Smith quarter” is more meaningful if you’re talking to a person who actually remembers the Smiths.
“Amy’s” husband made detailed maps for her when she first moved to the farm. This was helpful. Especially when he was actually at the place where he said he’d be.
The first fall that “Gina” lived out here, she accidentally took supper to the wrong combine. The neighbour was out harvesting his own canola field, about a mile away. “He had a red combine, just like my husband,” she says. “I thought every farmwife must have done that at least once.”
Tip 3: Say “thanks”
I doubt this would have come up if we hadn’t had a glass of wine (or two), but more than one of the women at this party said that after they made a hot meal, packed it up, found the right tractor and delivered the food, nobody said “thanks.”
Husbands weren’t the biggest culprits. The worst offenders tended to be brothers-in-law, or hired help. We know you’re busy. If you’re not part of the family, we know food is part of your salary. You’re pressed for time, and you have things on your mind besides the three-cheese homemade lasagna we’ve just served with a thermos of iced tea and a disposable fork.
We’re happy to feed you. But when you don’t take time to say “thanks,” we don’t feel like part of the team, or that our contribution is appreciated. And keep this in mind: the person who brings your dinner probably doesn’t get the satisfaction of finishing seeding the whole field, or filling the combine hopper with canola.
It’s embarrassing for smart, accomplished women (like my neighbours) to admit that they need someone else’s “thank you” to feel important. It’s not something I’d put on my resumé, but when my little boy was a toddler, there were lots of days when my biggest measurable accomplishment was taking a chicken pot pie out to the grain truck.
Once one woman at the neighbour’s party got up the nerve to bring this up, everyone else nodded and “Jen” piped up. “I’m so glad you said that! I’m always so disappointed when they just grunt and get back in the cab!”
I’m relieved to report this is definitely not a problem for me. My husband and in-laws couldn’t be more grateful, no matter what I take out, and they always remember to say something nice.
As for Sheila and Bill — they are still married. “I haven’t taken meals out for two years now, and Bill hasn’t starved to death yet,” Sheila said. She’s got a point. I’m no doctor, but Bill looks healthy enough to me. There may be something to this. And if I didn’t have such a nifty salt and pepper shaker and all those matching Tupperware field-ready plates with lids, I might try it out myself.
If you’re still looking for someone to pack your lunch, I’ve read about a website called www.farmersonly.com — a dating service specifically for farmers.
The corporate slogan is “City folks just don’t get it,” and the site features tag lines like “You don’t have to be lonely, thanks to FarmersOnly.”
The site is “free to join,” but they’ll ask for $49.95 for a six-month membership when you’re ready to stop just browsing and start emailing your potential spouse. Use it at your own risk — Grainews is not responsible for any fraud, deception, or poor-quality field-delivered meals that may result from the use of this service.
In this issue
Lunches, dating and salt dispensers aside, there’s a lot of great information in this issue. You’ve already seen Angela Lovell’s story about wireworms on the cover, so you’ve probably guessed that we’re focusing on insect management. You’ll find information to help you find and conquer bertha army worms, flea beetles, cabbage seed pod weevils and grasshoppers.
Once you’re done reading about bugs, please read Angela’s article about insecticide safety on page 8. You’ll find an article by Scott Garvey about Case IH’s Steiger tractors on page 34 (in the machinery section), and you can learn more than I ever wanted to know about livestock breeding from Debbie Chikousky’s column on page 16. I hope something here will be useful on your farm. †