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Women in agriculture use online tools to build supportive communities

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WATCH ABOVE: The face of agriculture has changed over the years. Women have always played an important role on the farm or ranch, but as social media has developed, so too has the perception of what a woman in agriculture can do. Quinn Campbell explains. – Jul 20, 2021

Living on a ranch, raising her children there and working alongside her family and husband is right where Randi Debruyne wants to be.

“I would not want to do anything else,” she said.

“As hard as it’s been, as difficult as things sometimes are; like right now, we are in the heart of a drought. We have hardly any hay (and) things are going to be hard this winter. But no, nothing else I’d want to do.”

Debruyne ranches alongside her husband and the pair run a cow-calf operation in a remote area of Saskatchewan.

She said the closest community only has roughly 30 people.

“When you start looking for people to learn from, it’s like there is not very many, so Facebook gives you a really good way to connect with other people with similar interests,” Debruyne said.

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She shares her knowledge on her social media page called The Ranch Life and helps run another page called Cattle Women, a place to share information, ask questions and celebrate the industry and the women in it from around the world.

“It’s heartwarming to see all the people that you helped and that are like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that — thank you for posting that.'”

Debruyne said she is grateful to have her husband’s support.

She said at times when she isn’t physically strong enough for something, she can ask for help, or rely on technology like power tools to get the job done. For her, being a part of the agriculture industry has been very positive and she feels she’s treated on the same level as her male counterparts, but she said she knows that isn’t the case for all women involved in the industry.

“I’m a big proponent of everyone is equal,” Debruyne said. “Running one down to lift up another isn’t really lifting anyone up.”

READ MORE: ‘Ranching Women’ webinar showcases women in agriculture 

Katelyn Duban is an organic farmer from southern Alberta. She jumped in with both boots after marrying her husband, a third-generation farmer who was happy to have her join the day-to-day operations of the family farm, even though there would be a learning curve.

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“My knowledge of agriculture prior to becoming a farmer, or becoming a wife of a farmer, was absolutely nothing,” laughed Duban.

She said it didn’t take long for her to understand why her husband was so passionate about the industry.

“Through being out here and seeing the work and the love that went into this land, that really kind of sparked my passion for agriculture and he (husband) was supportive of whatever I wanted to do,” Duban said.

“It was just sort of an added bonus when I was available full-time to help out.”

Duban found few resources for women in agriculture, or social media accounts that celebrated the work and role women play in the industry. So she found a way to help fill the void b y launching a podcast called The Rural Woman Podcast.

“In March 2019, I launched The Rural Woman Podcast and have been interviewing women from all around the world since then — and (hearing) their stories of being a female in agriculture and what that means to them, whether they are a farmer, a rancher, a homesteader or what have you –any story is welcome,” she said.

Duban wanted to give women a platform to share their thoughts on issues, experiences and knowledge on all facets of the industry without worrying they would be judged.

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“I believe that there are many people who — in this lifestyle and this industry — are so welcoming and they want to teach you what’s going on and kind of embrace you and welcome you in,” she said.

“I would say on the flipside, there is still the old boys club, where it’s a little bit harder to get in and rub elbows with some of those old-time farmers who who have the preconceived notion that the woman does not belong in the field.”

Duban’s podcast has been listen to in over 220 countries, creating an international community.

“Being a woman in this industry can be intimidating, but it can also be super empowering and that’s kind of the community that I’m trying to build,” she said.

Both Duban and Debruyne said being a woman in agriculture can look and mean different things to different people — from driving the equipment, bringing meals to the field or making financial decisions, every role is just as important.

“We get to choose our title, and we get to be who we want to be, so if we are proud to call ourselves the farmer’s wife, then you own that and you wear that badge proudly,” Duban said.

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