For many of us living in the cities, we have to Google farm crisis to learn about the life altering situations that effected farmers and farm families during the 1980′s, a prime time for the feminine genius to come to the forefront. The farm crisis in the 1980′s was the worst for farmers since the Great Depression. The facts are that during the 1980′s prices that farmers received for crops, livestock and even their land plummeted, while fuel cost and the expense to run a farm sky-rocketed. Many families were forced off the land, a good number of local, family run business in rural America closed, never to reopen again. Many family farms were taken over by corporations.
One Catholic woman, Mary R. shared with me, “One day, at the peak of the farm crisis in Iowa, I was listening to Father Norman White, the Archdiocesan director of Rural Life Conference. He said, ‘Don’t just sit back on the farm complaining about how things are going. Get involved. Let your voice be heard.” She continued, “Farmers that really needed the loans to keep afloat couldn’t get the loans because they didn’t have enough resources to offer as collateral for the big loans they needed. Lawyers, bankers and doctors who owned farms could. We didn’t think that was right, so I got on the board that decided who got loans. With women on the board, the needs of people got taken into account. You know the perspective of women: we care about people. I remember one farmer who was legally blind. He applied for a loan with no collateral. We gave it to him to keep him on the farm and give him dignity. On these decision-making boards, we need the voice and perspectives of both men and women, for without both, our organizations are “blind in one eye!”
Saint Edith Stein has written about the power of the feminine perspective/genius. She says that women are designed to position themselves alongside people, to carry their burdens as their own to give voice to the needs of people. We are gentle, yet strong, to offer our efforts to nurture and provide support for those who really need it.
Mary R. continued, “Even when, a man and woman worked side by side on the farm, everything was in the husband’s name. All the Social Security from the income went to the man and when women retired, they had no retirement. When it came to farm programs, women had no voice and couldn’t vote on the decisions of the National Farmers Organization. We worked to get these things changed because we could see that things were better for everyone when we worked together.
Another thing we did, right at the peak of this farm crisis, which was the idea from a woman. We went back to the old ways of helping each other out, of being neighbors. In our small towns, we rallied together. We saw who had what. When someone needed to combine their oats, rather than apply for a loan to get one, they borrowed their neighbors. When they needed extra help, they helped their neighbor rather than get paid help. There was power in doing this, being a united front. Many of us were able to keep our farms with this.
Think about your own life. How have you experienced working together as neighbors and of the insights from a woman’s perspective? True richness comes when both men and women become “neighbors” to each other to see the needs on all sides. We need objective awareness of the facts, as well as insights for people. ~Mary