Archive for March 8th, 2009

International Women’s Day 2009

You can find out plenty of information and terrifying statistics about women and our world with a simple Google search but I want to focus on my experiences as a smallholder because, although women have been farming and producing food since we first learnt how to, it’s still viewed by many as a man’s world.

In my experience, this is because many (older) men don’t believe that women have the physical (and emotional?) strength to do the job, forgetting that brute strength isn’t always the best answer and that there are ways around it.

The feed merchants’ where I buy the pig and chicken food is a classic example. It’s taken me ages, but I have finally trained the guys who work in the warehouse that I can help them carry my order out, just like the blokes that buy their animal feed there. I know they are doing their jobs but they don’t have a barrow or anything to help carry customers’ sacks: they carry them out to your car one by one. So why not grab one myself? Like I said, the male customers do, so why not me? I mean, who unloads the sacks when I get home?!

I strongly doubt they meant anything by it, and I think it’s just habit. But one example of someone who did mean it came about when I asked the guy who runs the place why they had switched from 25kg sacks of sow nuts to 20kg sacks but kept the price the same. He said he didn’t know why the owners had taken the decision, and that they’d had lots of complaints, especially about the price. But, he remarked, at least it would make it easier for “young ladies” to carry the sacks!!!!!

When I bought my pig arks, my biggest concern was the thought of moving them as the agent I ordered them from assured me that a woman couldn’t possibly shift one and that I would definitely need someone to help. Now, I fully concede that moving an ark to the other side of the field on my own is a bit much, though whether that’s just because moving them through mud and standing water makes everything twice as difficult, I do not know. I’ll see what it’s like if we get a decent summer!! However, I’ve moved the arks on my own so many times now that I’ve lost count. Yes, of course it’s easier with someone to help, but I’ve never been the position where I can’t shift the ark myself.

Plenty of other local farmers have made similar comments and “observations” but the majority have been forced to backtrack when they see me doing “the impossible”.

So, women, if a guy tells you can’t do something, do not take that at face value. Try it and see!