Our milk check is made out to “Glen or Sadie Frericks”. The deed for our farm is both our names, as well. My business card includes “Dairy Farmer” in the title line.

But, sometimes I don’t think people believe me when I say I’m a dairy farmer.

One day last year, the owner of our feed mill called to say our balance was creeping up, even though we were paying as much as we could every week. When the call came in, the owner asked to speak with Glen. Suspecting the reason for the call, I asked him if it was about our balance. When he said yes he added that he normally doesn’t like to talk to farmers’ wives about money because he doesn’t want to rock the boat. I assured him he could talk to me; I was fully aware of our financial situation.

At a workshop this spring, the presenter was addressing full-time equivalents on dairy farms and the trend toward fewer people managing more cows. The line of questioning went like this:

“You plus two part-time employees makes ________?”

“Two full-time equivalents,” the answer came from the audience.

“And if your wife works with you on the farm, that makes her a ______?” the presenter asked.

“A slave,” said a man in the audience. 

And since the audience was mostly men, everyone chuckled.

I went with Glen’s dad to a doctor’s appointment in Minneapolis last summer. During the chit-chat at the beginning of the visit, Glen’s dad mentioned that we were dairy farmers as well.

“Oh,” the physician said to me, “so you’re a farm wife?”

“No,” I told him. “I’m a dairy farmer.”

I can hardly blame the doctor for his assumption. All of Dan’s storybooks about farms show women in dresses and aprons standing on the front porch ringing the dinner bell. A page later they’re cheerfully placing a frosted layer cake on the table. Now, these books are decades old and a lot has changed since then – most men don’t do chores in straw hats and bib overalls anymore, either – but our society’s perceptions haven’t budged. Even folks involved in agriculture, like the owner of the feed mill and the farmer at the workshop, continue to make assumptions about women’s roles on farms.

Sometimes the assumptions are my own fault, though. If a salesman or saleswoman comes and I don’t have time to talk, I just tell him or her that whatever is for sale is in Glen’s department, even though there are very few decisions made by just one of us.

People make assumptions about men’s roles, too. Take cookies, for instance. When we bring a plate of peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies to a get-together, everyone always directs the compliments (they really are delicious) to me. But I don’t make the cookies around here. Glen does. 

We have developed a partnership that capitalizes on each other’s strengths. We each manage different aspects of our farm and family, but we know enough about each other’s departments to help each other out when help is needed.

That means we’re both dairy farmers. We’re both parents. We both do housework. And, in a way, we’re both writers (you can’t live with a writer and not be part of the process). Plus, he covers for me when my writing takes me off the farm because he understands how much writing means to me.

We’re in this together. 

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children – Dan, 3, and Monika, 1. When she’s not parenting or farming, she’s writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.