Joel Salatin is consider by many people to be a “rockstar” of the local food movement. Books, movies and articles are written about him. He claims he uses unconventional methods with the goal of “emotionally, economically and environmentally enhancing agriculture” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyface_Farm). His farm, Polyface Farms, offer’s an apprenticeship, well actually, “an extremely intimate relationship” with Joel. The apprenticeships offer young men the opportunity to live and work with the Salatin’s. This men only policy has recently been changed to include 6 men and 2 women (due to accommodation limitations). http://www.polyfacefarms.com/apprentice.aspx
This pissed me off. First, I’m going to have issue with the fact it was men only in the first place. Apparently I didn’t get the memo that only men work in agriculture. I guess the first 29 years of my life I spent working alongside, the “cowboys” was wrong. And the majority of women that were in my ag classes? Our mistake, guess we couldn’t find the home economics classroom.
What made me even angrier were the people that defended this policy. Some were even women. Basically it was implied that being a woman was a liability on a ranch. (Pause – let that one sink in for a moment).
I guess this is so shocking to me because I grew up an only child on a commercial cattle ranch. As far as everyone was concerned, I was a boy. I hunted, I was a better shot then most of my Dad’s friends, I built fence, I drove tractors, pulled calves, castrated steers, got in fist fights, I got dirty, bloody and sweaty, I bucked hay. The fact that I was girl didn’t even factor into my world. Not only would I work as hard and do the very same work as the men I was also expected to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for the men and keep a clean camp, all while being sweet and happy. I’d say that is the definition of an asset.
I think it is understandable that I would be upset when I see people treating women like a liability in agriculture. We prefer to have women on the ranch. The majority of the time they are better than men (there, I said it). But why? Think about it, women are usually more sensitive, we are patient, we are compassionate, and we don’t have the “I’m a cowboy” attitude around the animals. We have smaller hands that better fit into cows to pull calves or artificially inseminate. We have quieter voices that aren’t as scary to the animals. Again, this is just my personal experience from working on the ranch.
I remember learning in college that “decades of research and experience prove that when women earn extra income they are more likely than men to invest it in education, food and health care for their children, creating a positive cycle of growth that lifts entire generations out of poverty. So when a “rockstar” farmer, that markets himself by using “unconventional methods (http://www.womenthrive.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=654&Itemid=174)” with the goal of “emotionally, economically and environmentally enhancing agriculture” has a no or minimal women policy, I think we should all take offense and question, why in the hell not?