Farm Progress

“Hey Suz, you got a minute?” … and other conversations that showed me what it was to be feminine on the farm.

Holly Spangler 1, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

October 4, 2016

2 Min Read

My Sunday school class has been talking about women and femininity lately — specifically, what in the world it all means in 2016, and how our ideas about femininity have been shaped. This week, we raised the question: How did what you see growing up, in either of your parents, shape your ideas about what it means to be feminine?

I’m not a fast thinker, so this didn’t occur to me until after the question had been asked and answered by the group, but a singular conversation keeps coming to mind: Dad would lean in the back door and call out, “Hey Suz, you got a minute?”


Granted, I was young, but I gathered quickly that this translated into “Mom’s day is shot.” Because what Dad really meant was that he needed help with one or more of the following: get parts, move cows, run to Rural King, disk a field, doctor a cow, or maybe move an auger. And it would take way more than a minute.

But you know what? She always said yes. She didn’t have a minute. She sometimes complained. But she did it anyway.

Mom was a helper to Dad, in the truest sense of the word.

“It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” Genesis 2:18.

We didn’t have other family involved in the farm, and no hired hands either. It was just Mom and Dad. She dropped everything to disk a field, help get a cow in, make a parts run.

We seem to talk a lot lately in agriculture about whether women should be called farmers or farmwives or “farmhers.” I can’t say I think it really matters. Honestly, I can’t think of anything I care less about. Call yourself whatever you’d like.

What I saw growing up was strength in the team, because they helped each other. They got stuff done. They didn’t always get along. But they worked together.

Back when I first brought John home to meet my parents, Dad told me (as we chased cows) that John and I needed to be able to work well together.

Turns out, I already knew that.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler 1

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

Holly Spangler has covered agriculture for the past 18 years, beginning her career with Prairie Farmer before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications. As editor of Prairie Farmer magazine, she brings meaningful production agriculture experience to the topics she covers, including a variety of production, management and issue-oriented stories. She also offers up her generation's take on the issues of the day through her monthly column and blog, My Generation.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is a member and past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. She was named Master Writer in 2005 and in 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and MidAmerica Croplife Association. Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the 2011 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the College of ACES Alumni Board, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth.

She graduated in 1998 from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications, and received the Warren K. Wessels Award for outstanding senior in the College of ACES. Immediately following graduation, she was a founding member of the U of I Ag Communications Alumni Leadership Council, and in 2011, the College of ACES named her an Outstanding Young Alumni.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and cattle on 2,000 acres. Their operation includes 100 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John's parents, and their three children, Jenna, Nathan and Caroline.

Holly is also active in the Illinois Farm Families program, and shares the story of agriculture and communications with a variety of groups and organizations, both within and outside of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations, receiving the Illinois Farm Bureau's Young Farmer Achievement Award in 2007.

Locally, Holly and her husband serve with their county's 4-H program, their school district and in their church's youth and music ministries. 

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