#onthefarm with Debbie and Debbie

For this week’s #onthefarm, Debbie Lyons-Blythe, a cattle rancher, and Debbie Borg, a row crop farmer, joined me to discuss some general thoughts on women in agriculture. We talked about women’s roles on the farm, their leadership roles with associations, the opportunities in farming and why they are active in social media.

Debbie and Debbie were fantastic (as all my guests are), considering that I think my questions and moderating duties were sub-par. I think owe them (and followers) another “Women in Ag” panel down the line.

At the end of the chat, I asked for people to submit any thoughts they had on women and farming. I received a handful that were quite personal. Thanks to nycUlla, firefighter89cpiersonkuber and mariclefarm for your comments!

Enough jibber-jabber. Hope you enjoy #onthefarm! As always, I appreciate any feedback to make this chat better.


n_web: OK, thanks for joining me today ladies. Hope we can learn some more about your farms and opps for women in ag today! Q1 in a sec. Q1: Give us some background on your family farm. Take a few tweets for that!

DebbieLB: I grew up near Manhattan, KS with my parents & sister. We all worked to raise Angus cattle. When i married, I moved. To my hubby’s family farm near a very small town in KS. We have five teenagers, 500 cattle, and lots of land in Ks tallgrass. I’m 4th gen. My hubby works in town, so I am day-to-day Labor & Management for our ranch!

iamafarmer2: 5th gen, 4 brothers make up the op. and I’m the only sister-in-law involved seasonly. Raise corn & soybeans, 100% no-till and background cattle. Most important crop on the farm: 2 daughters and 1 son. Also have served as President of the NE Soybean Assn. for the last 2 years

n_web: Q2: Let’s get right into the Women in Ag angle: How have women’s roles changed on the farm since you were a child? Q2 follow-up: have they changed? 

DebbieLB: women have always been involved…I hear stories of my grt-gma helping with hay harvest & then cooking the lunch for crew…the biggest change is that women are recognized more now…and publicly. I have no brothers, my sis & I just didn’t know any different! We drove tractors & farm trucks, fed cows & made hay.

iamafarmer2: I didn’t grow up on a working farm -had acreage and raised sheep for 4-H project–so not sure. mother-in-law tells me what she used to do and it doesn’t sound much different than what I do-except the equip is so much bigger

DebbieLB@iamafarmer2 I agree…technology has made it easier for women–less brute strength needed!

n_web: Q3: So, it sounds like it isn’t too much diff. But I would guess there are some misconceptions you hear? Any you care to share? 

DebbieLB: misconceptions?? I think women in any relationship are more a partner today than in previous generations. True in farming too. At my ranch, decisions R made together with Hubby & me talking about options. We each have our own strengths to share. Maybe another misconception is that a woman is all or none, in terms of involvement.

iamafarmer2: Q3  HMMMMM…YES, does the women rlly play a role YES, not just making lunch but involved in the decisions– marketing has become so important and information available and used in making the decisions. Ditto to @DebbieLB most all decisions r made together but know that’s not true on every farm

n_web: Q4: What’s the toughest thing for women to overcome in agriculture?

DebbieLB: when the phone rings in evening & caller asks for Duane (hubby) then asks about bulls 4 sale…Duane hands phone back to me! that’s not really tough, but sometimes is frustrating that caller assumes that Mr. is the one to talk to. we try to laugh!

iamafarmer2: the courage to stand up, be heard and be involved–at most assn. meetings it’s dominated by the male population

iamafarmer2: Well said RT @DebbieLB: maybe another misconception is that a woman is all or none, in terms of involvement.

iamafarmer2: LOL RT @DebbieLB: when the phn rings in evening & caller asks 4 (hubby) then asks abt bulls 4 sale…Duane hands phn back 2 me.

So true @DebbieLB- those are things you LOL and hope that maybe it’ll be different for our daughters

DebbieLB: I agree at mtgs, but I am lucky, the glass ceiling was broken years ago. Women are very prominent at NCBA or KLA mtgs nowadays. I go to the meetings & get involved because I’m the one doing the ranching. Hubby works in town & does my chores I’m gone.

n_web: Q5: Let’s talk about leadership. UR both a part of farm assoc. Have you experienced any problems in being a woman and a leader? “Problems” probably wasn’t the correct word choice there. 

DebbieLB:  I am the 3rd woman president of Ks Angus Association, 1st was my mom, then a good friend. I am in leadership in Ks Lvstk Assoc.. again, my mom was 1st woman pres of KLA. I have no probs @ mtgs feeling comfortable or a vital member. It is when I come home that things r tough. As a woman, I still am expected to be a good housekeeper, feed family, & do the work. My own expectations? I think women are being accepted more and more as advocates, experts & involved managers.

iamafarmer2: LOL Generally no. I would be the first for the NE Soy–but when I have-VERY frustrating. most often I really enjoy my involvement and it is no problem

iamafarmer2@DebbieLB completly agree on all the other stuff–especially the clean house

n_web: Q6: you both mentioned you have daughters. What’s your advice to them about considering staying/leaving the farm? 

DebbieLB: my oldest daughter is in college at KSU…my advice to her has been to do what makes you happy! ranching is hard work…. I encourage all women who want to farm/ranch to go to college…take lots of science, communication & tech classes.

DebbieLB:  I go into mtgs or talk to other ranchers knowing I am a BEEF PRODUCER not a WOMAN beef producer. The attitude is so “yesterday.” Farming is hard work, but if you love it, go for it! It is a wonderful way of life & a great way to connect with family.

iamafarmer2:  I believe there is so much opportunity in AG–people will always need to eat–the rewards are awesome

iamafarmer2:  great point @DebbieLB it is a WAY of life and your business

n_web: Q7: Are those tough conversations? Are those conversations different from when you were making the decision w/your fam?

DebbieLB: which conversations? with my daughters? They are the same I have with my sons. My daughters are oldest 18, 16, sons nxt 15,14,14.

n_web: Q8 from @phildawgkey: what can we do to “help advocate the bright children stay in rural places and ag?” 

DebbieLB: great Q8: we need the best to farm. Bottom line: must make money & provide for family. next, must be happy–preserve this life. I think it is important to provide a means to pass on the farm to next gen. Estate planning discussions important now. Get the younger gen involved in decision making–not just providing labor. My kids & I work together after school a lot! They need to fill important and a vital part of the farm. Making decisions will also show them the realities of farming/ranching.

n_web: Sounds like the true definition of family farming!

DebbieLB:  Q8: reminds me when we came home to hubby’s farm. An old neighbor was really mad at us. He said we were taking income from him. I responded that we were the future and to keep farms vital in KS, people like us HAD to come back & farm.

n_web: Q9: Do you think more young adults are realizing the upside of farming? That they want to stay? Is that a trend worth watching? 

DebbieLB:  I saw a study recently that said adults change jobs/careers today about 8 times in their life. Farming isn’t an easy option. farming requires huge inputs of money & hard work. Young people will come/stay because of the satisfaction. But need support.

iamafarmer2: Q9 at the local community college AG enrollment is up 22%. Of course the trend is worth watching–it’s our future

DebbieLB:  NCBA has created a Young Producers Council, Farm Bureau has a program for young farmers & ranchers…important support! We R doing what we love: it is what we think is best for our family, the land & the animals we own. Hope some of my kids ret

n_web: Q10: You both are involved in Twitter and each have a blog. Why? What’s the benefit? Any “lessons learned” you can share?

DebbieLB:  I tweet to reach out from my little rural life to others in ag & consumers of my product. I blog for the same reasons. This is a global society but if we don’t reach out to tell truth about food production, someone will tell their version. 

iamafarmer2: Q10 Ag must get their story out and SM has allowed me to do that way beyond the coffee shop. 

DebbieLB: I love the #thankafarmer campaign this week. Perfect use of SM for Ag. A wise man once said (@TroyHadrick)… “The work I do online is probably going to have as big an impact on the ability of my kids to {ranch} as my work outside.” 

iamafarmer2: Q10 if farmers and ranchers aren’t the ones talking – then someone else will. The whole reason I started using SM was to protect our current practices so that my kids can farm if they want to 

n_web: Q11: What else is on your mind? What didn’t I ask that you’d like to address here? Particularly about women in ag . . . 

DebbieLB:  Q11: only that women can do anything…Technology & equip has made farming less physical, more scientific! used to be I felt I had to prove myself–bucking hay bales, carrying buckets, etc. Now there are no physical obstacles.

iamafarmer2: Q11 Hope that any female who is interested in ag pursues the path–the greatest industry I have ever been involved with. 

n_web: So SM is an empowerment tool? Do you feel like you’re making a difference?

DebbieLB:  I hope I’m making a difference w/ SM. I get lots of non-ag comments on my blog. That is who I write it for. I gain info too!

iamafarmer2: I don’t know for sure if I’m making a difference–but try to everyday and SM has made it easier to tell our farm story.

n_web: Thanks so much for your time today, Debbie and Debbie. Very insightful. Esp. after my crap-tastic moderating today . . .  Keep up the great work of sharing ag’s stories! 

Post-chat coments:

n_web: OK, if anyone following us today would like to share a story about their grandma/mother/wife/daughter and farming, please do now. 

nycUlla: my mother is the most brave & hard working woman I know. So many great stories. We always worked together as a family.

DebbieLB: THAT’s what it’s all about! RT @nycUlla #onthefarm We always worked together as a family.

firefighter89:  @n_web my daughter is 8 and I can already see the love of ag-she is always helping me & her Dad with chores & she really 

DebbieLB@firefighter89 Thx for sharing abt your daughter! I love having kids help w/ farm chores!! 

cpiersonkuber: Role of ag #women extends beyond the #farm R&D science, marketing, journalism, distribution, education; all #ag areas incl women 

iamafarmer2: Very well said RT @cpiersonkuber: Role of ag #women extends beyond the#farm marketing, journalism, dist. ed all #ag areas –

mariclefarm:  I appreciate the warm welcome I have received with ag association work as a young female ag advocate


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