"Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
Harriet Beecher Stowe
In honor of National Women’s Day I thought I might share with you a story about when I have felt most empowered as a women farmer.
During my first year farming I had been told on more than one occasion that I wasn’t cut out to be a farmer. I don’t look like a farmer. Or that I wouldn’t have the fortitude to make it all work. (most disappointing was this came from people I admired)
I had been working on raising my very first batch of birds to raise out for meat. I had carefully planned everything about these birds and they were very pampered.
The plans I had made to butcher them had fallen through. I didn’t have all the fancy (and expensive) equipment I would need to get all these birds processed in a reasonable amount of time by myself. Not to be discouraged, I finished my birds I had so carefully raised and loaded them up in the back of my truck in my dad’s old dog box. This was defiantly not the ideal setup for many reasons but I made it work.
Loaded up and with trusty terrier Max, we headed up north nearly 3 hours away to get those chickens USDA processed. The plan was to just sleep in the car so that we’d be there at 7 am ready for processing. When I got close to the address given, it looked like it was taking me to the middle of a hay field. The closest house was all gated off. So, I set off to the nearest hay field I could find and figured I’d hunker down for the night there.
I left Max in the truck while I went to find a spot in the bushes ;) When I came back to the truck Max had jumped on the lock on the drivers side and locked me out! I tried everything I could think of to somehow get it unlocked. Everything I had was in there even my phone.
It was late summer early fall and the night was starting to get cold. I looked around this old barn and found an old truck with the engine ripped out unlocked. So I crawled inside, tucked myself inside my t-shirt and tried to get a little sleep.
The next morning I still couldn’t figure out where this place was. I walked up and down fields and pastures with munching cows. Finally a sweet older lady let me in to use her phone. She didn’t know who or what I was talking about and handed me a 10 year old directory.
Discouraged, I went kept on walking the country road waving at every passer by and no one would stop to even listen to me. I was WAY past the point of tears at this point.
Finally! Finally a young man stoped and asked if he could help and when I told him where I was headed he said, “that’s where I work!” Praise the Lord! We finally get the chickens there and the door unlocked. I spent the rest of the day with the processors helping out as much as they would allow. Then we headed back to good ol‘ Alabama!
Whew! I was so relieved to be home and felt so proud to have my first batch of chickens in the freezer.
Over the course of the next few months I brought my freezer up to the county Farmers Market in Florence. I grew more and more discouraged with the customer base. No one appreciated what quality product I had and they certainly didn’t want to pay for it.
One Saturday, Brian and I hauled my chickens there again and tried to give it another chance. Another vendor approached us who was a very tall heavy set man in thread bear undershirt and overalls. He had a huge dip in his mouth. After taking a big spit, he looked me square in the face and asked, “ju butchem’ urself?”. I honestly thought he wasn’t speaking english for a second and I asked if he would repeat that. He looked me up and down pointing at the freezer and again asked, “butchem’ urself?” Brian and I, still puzzled, looked at each other wondering if the other understood. Finally we decided that he was asking if this little lady butchered those chickens herself.
Of course this man cared very little about the feed, handling practices or grazing theories I followed. At that moment, remembering all that I went through to get those birds there I couldn’t have been more proud of myself. At that moment I realized that I didn’t need his or any other persons validation to make the difference I want to make in this community. Of course the world was going to think I couldn’t do it......until I did.