In this edition of The Look, we talked with Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp about the agriculture industry, fashion, farming, family, and flowers. These sisters are filled with unique insights about individuality, life, style, and pursuing your passions. Though admittedly “chaotic,” Cass and Stef are living undeniably compelling lives.
"We wanted to change the conversation. Why do farmers have to look a certain way? Why do we as a society so often stereotype people based on the way they look?"
What inspired you to start the Instagram page @thetulepps?
We started our Instagram page @thetulepps in the spring of 2018. We were the marketing team for Springland Manufacturing’s UTL truck loading augers. We travelled to trade shows across Canada and the US selling them, and it was at these shows we noticed an underlying current of sexism in the Agriculture (Ag) community. Some men wouldn’t want to speak to us, others were blatantly rude because we were young women. Certain companies at the shows wouldn’t approach us when we walked through a booth. They didn’t think we were farmers because of our gender and the way we look. In those years, we were running all the equipment and taking on more responsibility at our Dad’s farm. Growing up our parents were often asked if they wish they had boys to take over the family businesses. We wanted to change the conversation. Why do farmers have to look a certain way? Why do we as a society so often stereotype people based on the way they look?
Our second major reason was to share our story. The Ag community is filled with incredibly diverse, multitalented, kind, hard working and humble people. We are feeding the world and the media often portrays us in a different way. We thought by combining our love of fashion and our careers as farmers our page would allow us to speak to a broader demographic. Urban and rural individuals follow us now and that was our goal from the start! Working with Hillberg & Berk is one way this dream has come to fruition. It’s incredible for us to see where this page has taken us and the support we’ve received is truly humbling.
"When we started The Tulepps we wanted it to be a safe space for anyone and everyone that celebrated breaking social norms and stereotypes. We love meeting people who are unapologetic and confident in who they are."
How do you balance both fashion and farming?
Balancing fashion and farming is hectic. For our IG shoots we try to batch shoot photos but it becomes difficult in the summer months when we have so much to do at Rivers Air and the farm. [The Lepps run air business based in Rivers, MB. Cass and Stef work as the grounds crew.] Last week we went to the combines in nice outfits while our dad was in line at the elevator. We had filled the bins at home and new we had an extra 30 minutes to spare so we made use of it. Then we changed in the truck and went back to work. When shooting with H&B we got up, shot the campaign, and then ran to the airport because—as the grounds crew—we had to help our dad get some custom spraying done with his AT-802F spray plane.
We love the juxtaposition of our life. When we’re at work we wear tough, durable clothing. When we’re out for an evening, we explore fashion and make our outfits interesting. We have the same value in both settings and that’s something we really want to portray to young girls. You shouldn’t be treated differently based on the way you look, which is why we often show up on our page with no filters, no makeup, just us. The next generation needs that more than ever. Balance is difficult. Our life is chaotic and most of the time we love that. Life is short and we’re trying to cram in as many experiences as we can so balance sometimes flies out the window during busy seasons like harvest.
What do you wish more people knew about women in agriculture?
Women are running farms; we just aren’t talking about it. If you don’t know about the Tractorettes, do some research! These women went to classes and learned how to run the farms when the men went off to war. Without them so many people would have starved. Just under 30% of farm operators in Canada today are women. It turns out we do look like farmers! Women have been doing incredible things for a long time. Another one to research is the Night Witches of WWII.
We wish more people knew that a farm wife (or farm husband) is the glue of many farm operations. Whether you’re trying to get the crop in, or harvesting in the fall, you are bound to have breakdowns. You don’t have time to eat and nothing matters but getting things at the farm wrapped up before a storm rolls in or a deadline rolls by. Farm wives are often the ones picking up the pieces; they’re the ones that hold the farm together—bringing suppers, running for parts and taking care of the house. It’s crucial. In our case it’s our mom, my husband, and Stef’s fiancé at times.
There are also many, many women in Ag that aren’t the farmer but are crucial to the Ag community. Agronomists, seed reps, equipment sales, and so many more jobs are filled by women.
"Women are running farms; we just aren’t talking about it."
What is it like running a business as a sister duo?
Running businesses as a sister duo with our dad is amazing. No one else would support us the way we support each other. We are 100% committed to making the businesses run smoothly and that’s a really incredible environment to work in. There are struggles. Separating work life from family time is hard. We need to find more balance there. We have misunderstandings and things get personal in the business because we are family. When I (Cass) was taking my business degree they focused on family businesses being some of the hardest. I definitely agree. But at the end of the day, we’re constantly working on being better communicators, and we get to spend our days working beside our dad and sometimes our mom. It’s really special.
What are your tips to styling jewellery?
When styling jewellery we like to mix chunky chains with smaller chains and differing lengths. We like pieces that tell a story. We prefer gold but we sometimes throw some silver in the mix too! Your style should reflect who you are. We also make sure we shop consciously. Supporting local brands that focus on sustainability and quality is very important to us. If we buy something we want to be able to wear it for years not just a season or two.
Where do you find inspiration for fashion?
We are currently doing a series where we style our outfits around our equipment which has been fun! Inspiration for our fashion often comes from @tezza.barton and @kyliekatich—we adore them and their art. Locally, we often ask our friend @jilliannesbitt to style our shoots if we have special projects we’re working on. It’s nice to have an outside perspective. She’s so creative and the best hype girl/friend we could ask for! We are hoarders when it comes to our closets so we enjoy mixing older pieces with trends to add interest. Fashion should make you feel good. Wear whatever you want and rock it! We adore seeing people embracing their individuality.
"Fashion should make you feel good. Wear whatever you want and rock it! We adore seeing people embracing their individuality."
If you were a flower, what type of flower would you be? A tulip, a sunflower, a daisy, or something else?
(Cass) I think I would be a wildflower. Maybe a tiger lily. A tough little flower that can bloom in the ditch.
(Stef) I’d like to think I’d be a wildflower too. Growing in the wild wherever I please, maybe a lady slipper. Fancy but still in the ditch.
What social causes are you passionate about, and why?
We are passionate about anything that helps people celebrate their individuality and makes them feel like they belong. When we started The Tulepps we wanted it to be a safe space for anyone and everyone that celebrated breaking social norms and stereotypes. We love meeting people who are unapologetic and confident in who they are. Imagine if the entire world was more encouraging of celebrating our differences. We would all learn more, we would all benefit, we would all feel safe.
"You shouldn’t be treated differently based on the way you look, which is why we often show up on our page with no filters, no makeup, just us. The next generation needs that more than ever."
What makes you feel empowered?
We feel empowered when we are independent, when we learn something new, when moms tell us we made a difference for them or their little girl, when we see someone thriving, when we help someone else, when we fix something at the farm without asking for help. When we help another woman feel confident in her own skin. Society really is so damn hard on women and we should be each other’s biggest fans.
Click here to shop The Look, and see how The Tulepps are styling our floral fall Sparkle.