Redefining the Kentucky Farmwife

Let me start by saying that if you don’t like stereotypes or gender referencing this may not be the writing for you, but if you are open minded to the idea that married Kentucky farming women (particularly those with children-since I have four) might just be full of courage, competency and character you may want to stick around. 

“Now, of all times in our history, we should be using our minds as well as our hearts in order to survive…to live gracefully if we are to live at all.” MFK Fisher in 1942


My love for the waiting and savoring of local food began with these tart, green apples.  Called Lodi’s or June apples, you simply boil them down in water and sweeten.  At 16 I got my very first job at a local orchard.  After mentioning several times to the farmers wife that I had never really cooked anything in the kitchen she encouraged me to try with these.  She gave me a couple of different recipes (all of them saying, boil water, slice, cook down, sweeten).  I remember making what would be my first grocery store purchase-sugar and a paring knife.  How much satisfaction there was in the slicing, and tasting.  There will always be an adoration for this special apple that taught me to cook.

If someone in the household (or community) must care about the nourishment of body, mind and soul-who better for the job than a woman who has a bent towards compassion, multitasking, and getting things done (like most women do).  And who better to help her husband sell local food than his wife who prepares it.  I think back to women living on conventional farms growing wheat, tobacco, corn.  I can see where outside of preparing food for the men who worked those farms, raising children, helping pay bills and being involved within their community that they may have felt limited to their involvement on the farm-making off farm jobs (with benefits) so appealing.  I’m certain those crops were all sold to large corporations, mostly men.  On small-scale local food farms most of the food is being sold to households, women.  Who better to connect deeply to the product that must be chosen wisely and marketed with heart-than the farmwife.
My time with other farmwives has taught me not to expect perfection, but to notice the bits and pieces that our unique roles play in a society that is aching for hard work, good food and practical solutions.  A piece of each one of those women is carried with me as I work through feeling comfortable with the new role I’m living.  When I first became a Stay At Home Mom there was something missing.  Between running errands to kill time and simply keeping busy I felt this urgency to do something else..more..special…hard.  As I read Proverbs 31 I couldn’t help but realize that maybe my life as wife and mom wasn’t as limited as I had once thought.  She does good-seeks wool and flax, works with her hands, she brings food from afar, she buys a field, she plants a vineyard, she opens her hand to the poor, sells in the local marketplace.

To really care about food, how it is grown and where, the nutrition available to our bodies and how we experience it in community is anything but demeaning.  In fact, the connection I’ve experienced and the influence I’m able to offer my family and community is one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever encountered.  My unique role as farmwife allows me to work alongside my husband to provide income for our family, teach my children wise practical skills that will carry them well and help my community make positive changes towards food access and a stronger, local economy.

More than a definition I’m recognizing the need to allow my past to line up with my calling in order to do the work I was designed to do in the short time I’ve been given to do it.  I’m no longer held captive to the way I was raised, the way I was taught, the commercials and noise.  Nor do I plan to be held captive to anyone elses definition of farmwife.  That’s for each of us to work out.  The balance of my days includes making investments, policy change meetings, harvesting in the fields, cooking in the kitchen, facebook updates while rocking my babies–all while having a deep, meaningful respect and admiration for my husband.  For now, my redefining looks much more like stripping off all definitions and becoming clothed in the normal, beautiful realness of everyday life.

“I milked. I helped in the fields. Whatever had to be done. Every day. I never had a public job. Always at home. But I could do anything that had to be done on a farm. I think that’s where they got the idea of family farms. Because a family worked the farm. Every member of the family worked. My children learned to work on this farm.” Dorothy Cox (Kentucky Farmwife) 1920’s