In Canada, and particularly in Saskatchewan, agriculture is an important industry and a way of life for many. And although most farms involve the entire family, farming is a male-dominated career with fewer female farmers running equipment, working day-to-day in the field on the farm operations. For Lexie Adamson, however, becoming a farmer was always a certainty.
Since early childhood, Adamson wanted a life in Agriculture. “My whole life, I was going to farm. That’s never changed, not once.” Growing up on her family farm near Harris, SK, cemented her resolve. Her Dad and Uncle, both very progressive farmers, were early adopters of new crops, farm technology and techniques and made sure to immerse Adamson in every aspect of the farm from a young age—she ran equipment, went to board meetings for local Ag Organizations and tagged along to farm trade shows.
Adamson met her husband, Kyle, while attending Lakeland College in Vermillion. After graduating, Adamson moved to Kindersley, SK where his business was located, but stuck to her commitment to a future as a farmer. While her husband ran a business in Kindersley, Adamson worked with determination to move forward in her farming career, commuting over an hour to the farm in addition to taking an off-farm job.
These days, Adamson runs the farm with her brother and her dad still helps out. This year, they seeded 6500 acres. Adamson had to let go of her off-farm job to devote as much time as she could to her own farming operation. “I was starting to have breakdowns. I don’t regret it— it was a great run and the value that it’s brought to our farm [through knowledge gained] is unreal. Farming is a business; it has to be treated [as such]. And it’s so stressful trying to pick the right markets, making sure everything’s out for loans, making sure everything’s balanced. Your bills are endless.”
“There are definitely perks to farming—running your own business, being self-employed—but I wish people understood what actually happens and how that food gets to your plate.”
I ask if there are things she wishes people knew about farming and she is quick to dispel the social media myth of farmers sitting in an air-conditioned cab all day using GPS with their feet up. “Number one, there is no paycheque. Number two, what it actually costs to run a farm. People think, ‘oh, they have million-dollar equipment, they must be loaded’… what?! Do you think we walk in there with a wad of cash, and say, ‘here you go’? It’s a spreadsheet, a cost per acre of what you’re going to have to make to cover this stuff. And what a bag of canola costs, to what we can sell it for. There are definitely perks to farming, running your own business, being self-employed, but I wish people understood what actually happens and how that food gets to your plate, not just the pictures on social media. We’re never going to post on social media that we’re having a meltdown because we just opened a bin and it’s all rotten.”
The Adamsons have two children, a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. Running two businesses while raising two kids comes with its fair share of challenges. During the growing season, she’s away from the kids for extended periods. “Harvest was really hard last year. Those six weeks, I barely saw the kids.” She also feels guilty when she has to leave the farm while her brother and dad are still working. “I’m a mom first, and I always will be. I never knew that kids would touch me this much, but they have to be happy. Can I hop off the combine to go watch something at school? No, but I can make that up to them in a different capacity. My kids and my marriage have to be happy.”
“I’m a mom first, and I always will be. I never knew that kids would touch me this much, but they have to be happy.”
When I ask Adamson about attitudes toward women working in Agriculture, her outlook is positive. “It’s come a long way. I have some awesome mentors, my mom being one of them.” That said, she has experienced pushback as a woman working in Agriculture. “My first job, [as an Agronomist] I was pregnant, and men were not very nice or understanding of that.” Working as a grain buyer, she had to work very hard to earn respect from farmers. Now that she’s farming full time, she finds it frustrating that sales reps automatically assume that she isn’t the decision-maker on the farm and head straight for her brother or dad when they arrive for sales calls.
And when Adamson is asked what she does for a living and responds that she’s a farmer, she gets some sceptical looks and has received comments on her marriage that she and Kyle are a ‘backwards couple’. “It used to bother the heck out of me, but then I realized, what am I trying to prove? I’m using so much stress against that, and who cares? My kids are happy, we’re happy, we’re where we want to be. I sit on some awesome boards, I have a huge group of people who I look up to, and they’re [the ones] who matter.”
“It used to bother the heck out of me, but then I realized, what am I trying to prove? I’m using so much stress against that, and who cares?”
Along the way, Adamson has experienced moments of empowerment. During her off-farm work, she put the time and effort in to achieve a high quality of work. “When you start noticing that the farmers respect you, there’s nothing better.” One day on her own farm, a group of male sales reps stopped by with a meal in the field. Adamson, the last to arrive, had been driving a semi, hauling grain. She smiled at the surprised expressions as she climbed down from the cab to join them. “If more women can be empowered to do what I’m doing, things will be a lot more equal. It won’t be weird to see a female in the field running an air drill. Going to farm shows, there will be just as many women there as men—and not just running the booths, but walking the floor as farmers!”
“It won’t be weird to see a female in the field running an air drill. Going to farm shows, there will be just as many women there as men—and not just running the booths, but walking the floor as farmers!”
Adamson refuses to let judgement or cultural pressure to get in the way of building a life that fulfils her heart and soul. Sticking to her strong values of family, equality, and community, she leads the way as a fourth-generation farmer while remaining a devoted mom and wife.
Writing: Stacy McIntosh