It’s not uncommon for women to serve as primary operators on farms in Alabama, managing fieldwork, sales, distribution and more – often while raising children and running a household. While it’s not always easy, many women are taking advantage of the many opportunities today’s agriculture industry offers.
“Most careers have set beginning and ending times every day, but farming does not have office hours,” says Amy Belcher, communications director for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. “Trying to manage being a farmer, a mom and taking care of a house can be difficult.”
Sisters Team Up at Backyard Orchards
In 2010, Allie Corcoran opened Backyard Orchards in Eufaula with her sister, Cassie Young, and the duo has been going strong since. The pair grew up on their family’s row crop farm, and after graduating from Auburn University, they decided to start their own “U-pick” operation growing strawberries, blueberries and peaches.
“We knew agriculture was changing with the local food movement gaining momentum. We wanted to bring that to our community and provide fresh fruits and vegetables,” Corcoran says. “We also wanted to allow people to experience agriculture firsthand by doing U-pick.”
Backyard Orchards also includes a country store with pre-picked produce, such as cabbage, collards, turnips, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, field corn, sweet corn, peppers, peas and okra, as well as items like jams, jellies and relishes. In the fall, visitors can explore a pumpkin patch and corn maze, and the pumpkins are available for purchase. In addition, Backyard Orchards hosts special events like birthday parties, weddings and school field trips.
While Corcoran handles most of the fieldwork and social media, Young manages the business side of the farm. Young is also a mother of three and married to a full-time farmer, which Corcoran says requires “a lot of juggling.”
“Cassie puts the food on the table, changes the diapers and cleans the house – on top of coming home from a long day of work,” Corcoran says. “Women in agriculture face so many different challenges, and it can be tough.”
Managing Bell Place Farm
Also growing up on a family farm, Wendy Yeager began her own farming operation with her husband, Jamie, in June 2007 with a 75-acre crop of brown top millet. The couple quickly found success, and today they own Bell Place Farm, which covers 970 acres in Orrville and includes cotton, peanuts, grain sorghum, wheat and soybeans.
Because her husband works elsewhere full time, Wendy Yeager handles the farm’s day-to-day operations, working in the fields and ensuring products are shipped to customers in a timely manner. However, she says her husband helps out on the farm as soon as he returns home from work, and it’s ultimately a team effort.
“I realize mine and my husband’s situation is not a typical husband-wife family farm,” Yeager says. “Usually it’s the husband who’s at home on the farm, and the wife is the one who has the job off the farm. I know we’re an oddity, but it works for us.”
The Yeagers have two children, both young girls who have grown up riding the farm equipment with Wendy and spending time in the fields. While she can’t be sure if they’ll want to work on the farm in the future, she has planted the seed, much like her own mother did when she was a child.
“My mom was always out on the farm, working alongside my dad, so she was a good example of a woman in agriculture,” Yeager says.