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City girl discovers her purpose in agriculture.

Whitney Haigwood, Staff Writer

March 15, 2024

7 Min Read
Woman farmer standing in front of cotton bales, wearing sunglasses and a bandanna.
Kelly Griggs was raised to tackle any job, at any time, no matter what it is. She is proof that anyone can choose a life in agriculture – even a city girl who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Kelly Griggs

Farmers commonly tell the story of being raised on the family farm and how agriculture essentially chose them. That, however, was not the case for Kelly Griggs. She is proof that one does not have to grow up on a farm – or even in the country – to discover their purpose in agriculture.

To Kelly, farming is more than a career. It is a lifestyle that preserves her family’s livelihood and their legacy. In telling the story of her 19 years in ag, Kelly said, “The farm is where I belong.”

As an owner-operator, she has made it her mission to support others choosing the same path. Likewise, as a woman in ag, she is dedicated to growing a network of farm wives who encourage one another, no matter their role on the farm or season in life.

“We all need each other,” Kelly said. “We need that support. Real support and a real connection, on an authentic basis.”

Her story is fascinating. Her passion is real, and her calling is undeniable as she leads by example. 

Discovering a passion for ag

Kelly grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She was taught to work hard for what she wanted in life, and followed familiar family footsteps, pursuing a career in restaurant hospitality.

In 2001, she accepted a job that moved her to Tennessee where she continued working in the restaurant industry. Then in 2005, she met Matt, a fifth-generation farmer from Humboldt. She fell head over heels for Matt and head over boots for the farm.

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“I had absolutely zero background in agriculture,” Kelly said. “When we met, I thought the tractors and the cotton picker were the coolest things I had ever seen.” She recalled Matt’s astonishment when she exclaimed, “I want to drive those one day. Those look awesome!”

The two married in 2006, and Kelly began learning everything she could about farming.

"I am head strong,” she said. “I was raised to tackle any job at any time, no matter what it is. I thought, well, if I am going to be a part of this, and my husband and I are going to own this farm together, then I am going to learn to do everything like he is."

Man and woman farmers standing together in front of a cotton bale wrapped in yellow wrap with cotton picker in background.

From city girl to farm partner

Kelly began learning all the things, like how to drive a tractor, operating a combine and a sprayer, planting soybeans, and even taking care of machine maintenance. All while raising kids and continuing to work her corporate job.

Furthermore, she got their children Paige, Nate, and Carter, involved on the farm.

'The kids were out there all summer long with us. They were in tractors and on combines. They learned to rake and bale hay. We practically raised Carter in the combine. He was six weeks old, sitting in that combine in his baby seat,” she recalled. 

Related:3 ways female farmers are connecting

Kelly told stories of the family working together. She and Matt raised their children to be hard workers. Everyone had a job on the farm.

“Those were some of our best times,” she said. “It was great, because I worked a job that required me to be away from them 40 plus hours a week. Then I thought, we could actually raise a family on the farm. And we did.”

In 2011, Matt was struggling to find full-time help. That is when Kelly decided to officially quit her corporate day-job.

Yet Kelly’s sights were not set on fulfilling the traditional role of a southern farm wife. Instead, she set out to be what she calls a “farm partner.” Kelly intended to be part of all the action, in a 50/50 partnership.

She said, “This is our business. We are in it together. The farm and the taxes both have our names on them. I decided, if I am going to do this, I am going to do it with him.”

Agriculture, for Kelly, was a life-changing choice. She added, “I didn’t grow up in agriculture. I chose it. I chose to be married to a farmer. I chose to quit my corporate job. That was my choice, and I chose agriculture over everything else.”

Griggs family goes LIVE

In 2019, Griggs Farms took to the big screen. The opportunity came through a reality TV appearing on the History Channel and featuring daily life on the family farm. 

After an email submitted by Kelly, the Griggs were picked as one of five families to appear on The American Farm show.

Kelly said, “I never thought I would do a documentary-reality series. But we did. Everything that happened on the TV show, happened in real life.”

The show came at a crucial time in Kelly’s life. She found herself feeling alone, unacquainted with other women in ag who were fulfilling a similar role. Because of the TV show, Kelly said she was able to find her tribe.

“I look at the show as a blessing. It gave me an opportunity to meet other women and families who are living the same life. I was able to find support,” she said. 

Kelly stayed true to her calling, and her network grew. Through social media groups specifically organized for wives, along with women in ag she has met on her journey, Kelly’s tribe now spans the continental U.S.

“There are farm wives who have the 9-to-5 jobs and raise the kids, ones who stay home and raise the kids, and we are all in this giant melting pot together,” Kelly said.

They check-in often by phone call and text message. They plan trips together, and they are there to lift each other up.

“I want to support my friends when they are having a hard day and clap for them when they have something to celebrate,” Kelly said. “It is so important to check in on your people. Text them. Send a funny meme to let them know you are thinking of them. 

Woman sitting in pile of picked cotton beneath a parked cotton picker, leaned against a small cotton bale while taking a phone call.

Finding the positive, no matter what

Not long after the Griggs family made their big TV debut, their world was rocked. In the fall of 2020, Matt experienced a traumatic farm accident, throwing him through the windshield of a combine. The incident went viral, worldwide. 

Kelly said, “He lived to tell about it, and the next thing you know, everyone knew who we were – not just from the TV show, but YouTube blew up.”

With that, Kelly shifted her outlook. There is no sugarcoating it. Some days are really hard, but they are all rewarding. 

“I have learned since Matt’s accident that every single day is absolutely precious. There is no reason to be mad or angry or upset at anyone. I just laugh through things, with a sarcastic sense of humor that carries me through. Why be angry? There is no point.”

This positive perspective has carried Kelly through all sorts of trials and challenges. From countless surgeries and beating three different cancers, to autoimmune diseases that her body fights every day, Kelly is determined to press forward.

“I have plans,” she said with a smile. Without doubt, those plans involve agriculture and encouraging others who choose to live the American farm life.

“This is a higher calling. This is what God wants me to do, so I am going to do it regardless. My goal is to show women that you don’t have to have a traditional role on the farm if you don’t want to. If you want to dive in and take on a farm and you want to be a farm partner, then why can’t you?”

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