If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times:
“You don’t look like a farmer.”
“You don’t look like a farmer.”
I was most recently accused of this egregious transgression while presenting Farm Financials to beginning farmers at a Farm Beginnings class.** And while inviting me to present farm financials is indeed a joke-worthy topic, how I look has nothing to do with it.
I never know what to say when I’m accused of not looking like a farmer. What does that mean, really? Should I be wearing rubber boots and have straw embedded in my hair? Should I be a hipster or wear dreadlocks? Should I be fat and/or a little bit homely? Should I stink of manure and have dirt under my fingernails? Should I wear flannel shirts and overalls with a straw hat, or perhaps a denim skirt? Should I look like I have no other option for my life? Should I be a man?
A few years back I was actually a student in this class. And I remember with great clarity how one presenter (speaking off-topic) told us that people expect farmers to look a certain way and so, if we want to be successful, we should try our best to incorporate that ‘farmer look’ into our persona. No lie, this person actually went on to describe exactly how we should dress for each occasion. Taking produce to the farmers market? Wear overalls, a worn t-shirt with a farm-related or liberal message printed on the front, and a wool stocking cap. Better yet, tie your hair up with a bandana! I was apparently the only person offended by these comments (that I know of), as many people were nodding their heads in agreement.
Maybe someone should take this idea and turn it into a class! They could call it Farm Fresh Fashion or An Outfit for Every Outfit! How about The Dirt on Farmer Digs?
Whatever the title, something tells me I won’t be invited to be the presenter.
“You don’t look like a farmer” is a powerful statement. People that say this are saying I’m not fill in the blank -enough for their taste. And then I get wondering….wondering about their opinions, their motivations, and ultimately their farm ethic. Are they saying I’m not smart enough or strong enough to be a farmer? Are they disclosing their stance in the very real and terrible divide between conventional and organic farmers? Are they trying to influence me or pressure me into something? Are they sexist? Are they revealing an unspoken prejudice against farmers as uneducated, dumb hayseeds?
Can they really, honestly, genuinely be simply surprised that a farmer might wear mascara?
As a farmer—a funny-looking and apparently unfarmer-ish farmer—I can tell you that the cows don’t care if I wear a pantsuit or my pajamas as I let them into that fresh paddock when they’re hungry, the chickens are fine with both high-heels and shit-kickers as long as I throw them their coveted kitchen scraps, and the horses will just as happily grab a carrot out of freshly manicured hands as they will lovingly nibble hay embedded in hair. Thankfully, a farmer’s animals and a farmer’s land will respond to his/her care and attention—with or without the right wardrobe.
My response to the woman at the Farm Beginnings class? I’m not what all farmers look like, but I am what a farmer looks like. And I think that’s good enough for Irish Grove.
**The person commenting on my appearance at the class was a student and not a Farm Beginnings staff person. I'd hate to give the impression that Farm Beginnings organizer Angelic Organics endorses a certain look. They always have and continue to support farmers of all varieties.