Face of farming gets facelift

DES MOINES, Iowa — Marji Guyler-Alaniz was one of about 100 million Americans who watched the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers compete in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2013.

One commercial made an impression on Guyler-Alaniz and millions of other viewers that day: an advertisement for Dodge Ram trucks.

“It was the most popular commercial on the Super Bowl that year,” said Guyler-Alaniz, who lives near Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and two children.

The ad was called, “God made a farmer.” It was a tribute to farmers and featured photos of them on the land, on tractors and with animals.

A few weeks after the Super Bowl, Guyler-Alaniz read a newspaper article about the ad, asking why so few women appeared in the commercial. The article sparked an idea, which has effectively changed her life.

Guyler-Alaniz realized it was important to modify the stereotypical male image of farming through photographs and stories about females working in agriculture.

She is now the founder and president of FarmHer, an organization that shines a light on women in agriculture, documents the work of female farmers and encourages young women to work in the sector.

“I’m a big believer … that if you can see it, you can go do it,” said Guyler-Alaniz, who is a photographer and worked in crop insurance for 10 years before starting FarmHer.

“As a photographer, that’s kind of the basis of what I believe. It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s a whole other thing to see it.”

She began FarmHer by taking photos of women in agriculture, and the project quickly evolved into something much larger.

FarmHer now hosts motivational events for women working in agriculture and produces a television show on RFD, a cable station dedicated to rural lifestyles in America.

She also sells a line of FarmHer merchandise such as clothing, hats and jewelry.

FarmHer now has three full-time employees, including Carly Cummings, who grew up on a farm in Pleasantville, Iowa.

“We (women) are not the picture of agriculture,” said Cummings, who was at the FarmHer booth during the World Pork Expo held in early June in Des Moines.

“It’s not weird for men working in agriculture to see women working in (the sector), but I think it’s different for men outside of the industry … to see, for example, me working on a farm. It’s not normal to them.”

Ali Rossman, an intern with the company, said part of the job is organizing FarmHer events for young women who are just starting out in agriculture.

“(The events) inspire young women to stay in the industry,” she said. “It’s definitely a male-dominated industry, but we see it going (toward) more women because there are multiple jobs in agriculture that need to be filled and companies are looking to women.”

Guyler-Alaniz was the type of employee during her decade in crop insurance who did her job and didn’t complain about it, but being a young woman in corporate agriculture wasn’t easy.

“It always felt a little more difficult than it had to be,” she said.

“I always felt I had to prove myself a little more than some of my male counterparts.”

Through FarmHer, Guyler-Alaniz is hoping to make it easier for other women by altering the image of agriculture.

“I have met women who told me that they saw a picture a long time ago … and that maybe inspired them to start farming,” she said.

“I want to share stories of women who are doing great things. I want young women to see those great things.”

Some of those stories may soon be about Canadian women.

Guyler-Alaniz has applied for a trademark in Canada, and future FarmHer events could happen north of the border.

As well, she wants to widen the audience of the FarmHer television show by making it available on a streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu.

Guyler-Alaniz will likely continue to photograph female farmers and women in agriculture because she believes images change how people see the world.

“Pictures are super powerful in our perceptions,” she said. “Your whole thoughts around the agriculture system can be formed by pictures.”

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