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Women In Agriculture Part 2: The FarmHer Perspective

By Marjorie Guyler-Alaniz | Editorial, Urban Agriculture

Women as the Audience in Agricultural Communications

Though organizations focusing on agriculture are many, the number of those focusing specifically on the women in agriculture is relatively slim. While most publications, groups and organizations recognize the important role women play, and do provide some content and programs for them, these are typically aside to the main target, which is male. One of the few organizations that is shining a light on this important group of women is FarmHer. A little over 18 months ago, Marji Guyler-Alaniz started a simple photography project to show the female side of farming through imagery. At the time, Guyler-Alaniz had recently watched a widely popular commercial depicting farming and ranching through imagery. Though the commercial was beautiful, shortly afterwards she realized the lack of women shown in that commercial. It was a moment of clarity for her; women are really missing in traditional agricultural imagery.

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Women in Agriculture. Julia McGuire checks a beehive at one of her hives, spread throughout the city of Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Marji Guyler-Alaniz, FarmHer.

Updating the Image of Women in Agriculture

Guyler-Alaniz set out with simple goals for FarmHer; to show the world that women are a part of agriculture and update agricultural imagery to include this significant group of farmers and ranchers. Over the past 18 months Guyler-Alaniz has traveled the throughout Midwestern United States, photographing nearly 50 women in the various roles they play in our agricultural systems. These images are documentary; this is real work, real life and real women. Some of these women are the primary operators on their farms, others are workers at a farm or ranch. Many of them farm with their families. The images depict many different types of agriculture from small-scale produce farms focusing on selling at farmers markets and CSAs to large conventional row crop farms or cattle feedlots. The end result is a very real look at the female side of farming and ranching.

“These images are documentary; this is real work, real life and real women.”

Taking Credit for the Important Role They Play

Leading up to FarmHer, Guyler-Alaniz had spent 11 years working at a career in corporate agriculture as the risk manager for one of the largest crop insurance companies in the United States. Though not a farmer or rancher herself, she grew up living in the country, a generation removed from farming on her mother’s side. Throughout her career in corporate agriculture Guyler-Alaniz spent the majority of her time working with primarily men. In Alaniz’ experience, the upper ranks of corporate agriculture is still overwhelmingly male, much like farming and ranching. There were few women working in roles similar to hers that she could look to for networking or lean on for mentorships. Looking back, she says the industry was a tough place for a young woman to make her mark. Often times it felt like she was working towards an unattainable goal, and doing it without a support system of other women like her. When the idea for FarmHer came about, part of her drive came from that experience.

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Kellie Gregorich of Westwind Farm pulls a family heirloom tractor out of the barn. Photo by Marji Guyler-Alaniz, FarmHer.

The women in farming and ranching that she is shining a light on aren’t so different from Guyler-Alaniz. They are the minority in their industry. The resources and focus on these women, whether working in corporate agriculture or those working the land are few and far between. The road for these women, in either role, can be isolating and intimidating. Guyler-Alaniz felt a kinship. She admired these women and felt it was time to give them a place to shine. Overall, women tend to not take credit for the hard work that they do, whether at home, in the office or in the field. Through the name FarmHer as a title of pride, through the images and stories of these women, and through the community built by the women who follow FarmHer, Guyler-Alaniz sees her role as the woman giving these women a place to shine.

“Through the community built by the women who follow FarmHer, Guyler-Alaniz sees her role as the woman giving these women a place to shine.”

Creating Community as a Source of Growth

Though the original goal of FarmHer still exists; to show the world that women are a part of agriculture too, it has expanded. Guyler-Alaniz is working on a website expansion that will give these women an online community. A community where women involved in agriculture can connect and learn from one anther. A community that will serve to remove some of that isolation that comes with being a woman working in a male dominated field.

Guyler-Alaniz is focusing on how she can inspire young women to become actively involved in agriculture; a way for them to gain confidence and realize that they can be a FarmHer or RanchHer if that is the life they choose. They can pursue a career in corporate agriculture and provide a community to them so they will have a place to turn for support. By shining a light on this important group of women, Guyler-Alaniz aims to change perceptions and through that help direct more resources to women in agriculture. Last but not least, she has committed to donating 10% of net proceeds to programs benefiting women in agriculture.

To read more about the FarmHer movement visit the website at FarmHer.com. There you can sign up for the mailing list to become a part of the journey. Follow along as Guyler-Alaniz continues to document women in agriculture and expands her offerings to this group she holds up high.

Check out Marji Guyler-Alaniz’s biography below.

Feature Image: Kate Edwards, owner and operator of Wild Woods Farm near Solon, Iowa drives her tractor down a row on her small produce farm. Photo by Marji Guyler-Alaniz, FarmHer.

About The Author

Marji Guyler-Alaniz was born and raised in rural Iowa. Her love of photography as a child led her to a college degree in Graphic Design, Journalism and Photography at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA. After college, Marji pursued a full-time career in the Corporate headquarters of a large crop insurance company while also obtaining an MBA from Drake University, also in Des Moines, IA. She now spreads her time between her two small children, husband, family, friends and her love of photography. In the spring of 2013 she launched FarmHer to documenting women in all areas of agriculture, from all backgrounds, reaching as far as she can. Through FarmHer she has goals of changing society’s perception of a farmer, creating community for women in agriculture and inspiring young women to get involved in agriculture.