Farmer’s daughter no longer ignored

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I heard a farmer say something recently that really perked my ears.

It may not sound all that earth-shattering to some. He said, “I really wish I had had a daughter.”

Now, this is an older fellow, one of those dyed-in-the-wool type of guys who still runs a fairly diversified farm, working sun-up to sun-down. He had a son, but not one as gung-ho toward farming as he has always been.

His one-liner came on the heels of an article I had just read in the Mansfield News Journal, “Women return to the farm… more daughters than sons taking up the profession.”

No longer a surprise. The Gannet News Service article was based out of Dickens, Iowa, where the reporter found Melanie Rusk, 25. Melanie had left a gardening job in California to return to Iowa to farm with her father, Bob.

“Not long ago, folks would have marveled at a young woman taking up farming as a career. These days, it’s not so wild a tale,” the article reads.

Melanie Rusk was quoted, “I know more young women who’ve come back to farm than I know men. There are two other women farming within a couple of miles of here.”

A Penn State University study reveals that over the course of the past 20 years, women became much more involved in decision-making on the farm. The study involved 2,661 women in all 50 states.

As farming becomes more and more sophisticated, more brains than brawn are required to run a successful agriculture business.

But the desire and the love of the life has to be there, too.

Melanie Rusk is just one woman who loved the land enough to major in horticulture at Iowa State, then landed a job at the 654-acre Filoli estate near San Francisco, complete with 16 acres of formal gardens.

Many would have thought she had landed her dream job. But when her grandfather decided to retire from farming, she jumped at the chance to return to the family farm. She said she enjoys being back home, being close to her family and working the land she grew up on and grew to love and respect.

Division of labor. The father and daughter have worked out the division of labor, with Bob Rusk planting the 800 acres of corn, while Melanie plants the 700 acres of soybeans. She has also diversified in to fruits and vegetables, reading gardening books and studying up on which plants are hardy enough to survive a northern Iowa winter.

She says that combining the corn is “the best job,” saying she finds running the big machine fun and easy.

Though she loves what she is doing at age 25, she says that she really doesn’t know if this will be her life’s work. “I don’t know,” she said when the reporter asked her that question. “It depends if I can make a living.”

But how great that she was given the opportunity to find out!

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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