“May I Speak to the Farmer??”

by Kate Ziehm

Take a moment and breathe. I am about to scratch the surface of a very big topic in a short article, but I feel like we have to start somewhere. It will spark emotions that might be extremely raw and that most of you will be able to identify with at some level…but this is good, open communication. I hope my thoughts will be helpful as we move forward.

Recently I listened to someone describe a situation in which she was ignored by an ag industry professional who paid attention only to her brother during a farm meeting.

Sound familiar?

What about this? The doorbell rings and the person on the other side asks to speak to your husband, or your father, "the farmer." When they realize that "the farmer" is you, the conversation plummets, and you are left looking at their back as they get back in the truck to leave.

And, for me personally, I will never forget the first time I walked into a milkhouse as a dairy nutritionist where I was greeted not only by the farmer himself but also by all of his pin-up girls.

Let's just say I wanted to rip down every last one of them and stomp off the property and never go back. But I didn't.

So what do you do? How do you handle these awkward, extremely infuriating situations that remind you of just how far we still have to go to feel appreciated in the same light as our male counterparts?

Let's start with perspective.

Back to my days in the trenches with Monsanto as a 21-year-old summer intern, and from my experiences as a dairy nutritionist: when you walk on to a farm trying to sell something or "educate," your primary goal is to find the person who is the decision-maker as fast as you can. Am I right, fellow salespeople?

More often than not, and I am totally throwing myself under the bus here, I, too, looked first for the male farmer. Granted, it was 20 years ago and stereotypes were still very solidly in place, but I am guilty -- and I am a woman! But it's how the world was at the time; it was really all that any of us knew. I am very thankful that the women in charge (and there weren't nearly as many as there are today) whom I spoke with gave me a second chance and helped me understand their very important, decision making role on the farm.

The other piece of perspective to know is that the salesperson or industry leader is busy covering up his or her own insecurities too. It takes a lot of guts to walk onto someone's farm while trying to read the lay of the land as fast as possible. There's a lot of pressure and a lot to process all at once. In addition, you are also trying to be aware of the farmer's valuable time. Sometimes all you want is a date when you can come back, but you may appear rather abrupt if your arrival falls on the wrong person.

The last piece of perspective I want to present to you is…

This is an excerpt from Kate's article on page 22 of the May/June 2018 Pink Tractor magazine. To continue reading, visit the digital edition.

Kate 1 Kate Ziehm, President of Morning Ag Clips, is originally from New Hampshire. She is a 1997 Cornell University graduate with a degree in Animal Science and a concentration in Business Management and Marketing. Kate's love of agriculture began with her 4-H dairy cow project and has grown and diversified ever since. With the birth of her children she turned her efforts to motherhood while she took the opportunity to broaden her knowledge and understanding of the agricultural industry. Since 2013 Kate has owned and operated Morning Ag Clips, a daily e-Blast that gives the latest breaking local and national agricultural news to farmers and ag industry leaders across the United States. In addition she dabbles in writing to connect with her audience on the  Just Me Kate page of the website. Currently Kate resides and works in Greenwich, NY with her three sons, Tyler, Jacob and Samuel.

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