It is a stigma that agriculture just can’t seem to shake. From childhood our society is molded, through fun songs with a lot of letters and farmers in dells, to associate certain characteristics with the people who grow food. The perception is that farmers are a bit older, wearing bib overalls and a dusty hat and they slap their knees at a great joke told at the local square-dance. One of the major differences between the persona kids, and some adults, believe about the farmer and the actual look of a farmer today, is that many of them are now women.
Changing the perception of what a farmer looks like these days is exactly what Marji Guyler-Alaniz set out to do when she started the FarmHer project earlier this year.
“There have always been women in agriculture,” said Guyler-Alaniz. “Whether they farm on their own, with a spouse or just help out a family or friend, women are a big part of the farm life and I wanted to document that in pictures.”
The combination of farming and photography is not a stretch for Guyler-Alaniz. She was born and raised in a rural Iowa community and she is a professional photographer by trade. An occupation she recently took up full time, after working for a major agricultural company for 11 years.
“I can tell you that in all of my years immersed in agriculture on the local and corporate levels that I never saw one picture of a women farming,” said Guyler-Alaniz. “I had this ah-ha moment in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping that this project is something I needed to do.”
It was a right place, right time, and right talents type of scenario for Guyler-Alaniz and she has loved every minute of meeting these strong, hard working women and snapping some incredible photos of them doing tasks they perform everyday without a notice.
Guyler-Alaniz admits that she put the cart before the horse when she first started this project, but now that it has taken off she is working on a long-term business plan and hopes to put the images she has captured to good use.
“One of the ideas that I have come up with is to show these pictures to kids,” said Guyler-Alaniz. “I think that changing perceptions takes a lot of time and if you start with kids those perceptions become reality for the rest of their lives.”
Guyler-Alaniz says she has been blown away by the response that the FarmHer project has received and she hopes that the momentum started by social media with grow into opportunities to share this new view of a farmer with people around the world.
“I hear from women in agriculture every day,” said Guyler-Alaniz. “They tell me that even though they know that they are part of a much larger group of farm women out there, my pictures are proof to them that they are doing something great and worthwhile and I think quite beautiful.”