Plant Chat: Marjorie Guyler-Alaniz, founder of FarmHer
Marji Guyler-Alaniz was born and raised in rural Iowa. Her lifetime love of photography led her to a degree in Graphic Design, Journalism and Photography at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA. After college, Marji pursued a career in crop insurance while also obtaining an MBA from Drake University. She now spreads her time between her two small children, husband, family, friends and FarmHer. In the spring of 2013 she launched FarmHer, documenting women’s lives in all areas of agriculture. Through FarmHer she has a goal of changing society’s perception of farmers by infusing photographs of women into farm imagery.
I was so excited to meet Marji at the Women Food & Ag Network conference, where I spoke last year in Iowa. I found her work documenting the stories of women farmers to be very inspirational. As you know, I’m very interested in our food supply and how food is grown. And the fact that women play such a big part in it is truly fabulous. I asked Marji a few questions about her work with women farmers. And please visit her website at FarmHer to view some of her gorgeous photography.
What inspired you to start FarmHer?
I had recently left an 11-year career working in agricultural risk management when I saw the 2013 Superbowl ad, God Made a Farmer, by Dodge. It was full of beautiful images depicting farmers throughout the US. I didn’t think a thing of it when I saw the ad, other than it was touching. About a month later I read an article in our local paper criticizing the fact that very few women were included in those images, even though 30% of all farm producers in the US are women. That led to a middle of the night ah-ha moment. Why don’t you see the women who are a part of farms and ranches? They are there, helping to run family operations, working on larger farms, or running their own farms. So, I decided to pick up my camera and do something about it…and FarmHer was born!
What have you learned from documenting the stories of women farmers?
I have learned so much about the variety of agricultural operations that make up our food and fiber system. There is such a wide variety out there, from one acre farms to thousands of acres. Each one has its place in providing food and fiber for their communities and beyond. I have learned there are an amazing amount of women involved in agriculture, and that number is getting stronger all of the time. From the increasing number of young women graduating with ag-related degrees to women returning home to run a family operation, they are there and involved with so many different aspects of agriculture. I have learned that each one of these women is unique and their farm is unique, though overall they all share similar traits and qualities. They are hard working. Harder working than most. They love the land whether they grow a commodity on it, or use it to raise their animals. They care for the land and strive to sustain it to nourish future generations. They care about their communities. They have a desire to nourish their families and communities. They care about agriculture and no matter what type of agriculture they practice they are generally very good about sharing their message.
What can we learn from these women?
These women have SO much to share. I think one of the greatest things that can be taken away from these women is that you should always go after what you want. Follow your heart. To be a farmer or rancher you have to have a great love for the land or the livestock or both. Many of the women I have met grew up on a farm or ranch. Some of them are decades removed from farming. Some of them always knew that they wanted to grow food or raise animals. Some didn’t. But in the end all of them have followed their heart into agriculture.
What is FarmHer’s goal?
My goal with FarmHer has always been to “show the world that women are a part of agriculture.” It still is as simple as that. Over the past year and a half since I began this journey it has grown and evolved in ways I couldn’t have expected. Today I still focus on photographing women and showing those images as far and wide as possible. However, FarmHer has evolved into somewhat of a community for women in agriculture as well. A place where they see themselves through images of other, doing the same work. A place where young women can see that farming or ranching is a noble and just way of life, and will hopefully be inspired to follow their heart into it. A place where women who are in isolated rural areas can join together and learn from each other. A place where women in agriculture can be accepting of each other.
Are more women beginning to take on roles as farmers? What can women bring to agriculture?
I think we will continue to see more women taking on roles as farmers and ranchers. As land is handed down through families this will naturally occur. As more young women graduate with age-related degrees this will continue to occur. As people continue to become more aware of the food they consume and where it comes from, the need will continue to be there.
I believe women bring a nurturing aspect to agriculture. Women have always played a large role in nurturing their families and communities and through agriculture they shine in that role. Women bring a love for the land and caring for their communities. I have seen a real compassion for the animals they raise and ride. Each and every time I see a woman with livestock it is apparent that they have a true compassion for the animals.
Note: I am not a spokesperson or profiting from these products or companies; just providing my own unsolicited opinion about popular products, services, and organizations in the food world today!