How much do city-dwellers know about farm life? Waterloo Rural Women’s Day on February 12 will shed some light on challenges women in rural communities face and their accomplishments with an annual winter mini-conference at Wallenstein Bible Chapel.
Among this year’s guest speakers – including Tim Blackwell, OMAF veterinarian, Krista Cressman Buck, executive director at Steckle Heritage Farm, and former queens of the furrow Celie Diebold and Sharon Grose – is Dana Thatcher. She and husband Adam received the Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers award for 2013 for the work on their Rockwood-area farm and approach to local food.
Thatcher wants to bring some awareness to the image of women on farms.
“I’ll be speaking to people who are in the same situation as me: living on a farm, working on a farm, raising children on a farm,” she said.
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She said rural women are sometimes stereotyped as stay-at-home moms who cook and clean, but there’s much more to the jobs these women take on in daily life.
“I think the public’s understanding of women on a farm is that we cook and make dinner and hang laundry on a line. I really think a lot of people think that’s all we do but women work a lot with livestock; there’s a lot of paperwork and bookkeeping to be done on a farm as well … there’s a lot of labour that needs to be done and women are taking that on too. Our roles really are endless.”
A variety of topics will be covered during the day of the conference. Blackwell will be discussing animal welfare and how to work with animal welfare advocates rather than against them.
Cressman-Buck will focus on educating people on the issues surrounding agriculture and exploration of local, conventional, organic foods. Steckle Heritage Farm is an educational farm, part of a non-profit organization.
Diebold and Grose will speak on opportunities for women in agriculture.
Thatcher was a teacher when she met her farmer husband and embraced the rural Ontario lifestyle. The pair raises livestock which are sold at the butcher shop and store on their farm along with produce like strawberries, vegetables barley and hay.
“People are so disconnected with farms; a lot of people don’t know what life on a farm is like. I have taken this opportunity to meet with my customers and teach them about rural life, that it’s not as easy and romantic as everybody thinks. A lot of people think that a farm is a big beautiful property but with that comes a lot of stress and hard work too,” Thatcher said.
The mini-conference takes place at 4522 Herrgott Rd. in Wallenstein. Call 519-664-3794, ext. 237 to book a spot. Registration closes February 10 and the cost of the event is $20 including a noon meal of quiche, salad and dessert. Childcare is available for $5. For details visit www.waterlooruralwomen.org.