FarmHer is a project started by Marji Guyler-Alaniz documenting through photography the importance of women in agriculture. Guyler-Alaniz began to put a woman’s face to farming—women make up 12 percent of the agricultural labor force in the United States. She combines her passion for photography with the mission of FarmHer to tell the stories of women in agriculture and change the perception of who is a farmer. Food Tank was able to ask Marji Guyler-Alaniz a few questions about her experience with the project thus far and her plans for the future.
Food Tank (FT): Can you give some background information about yourself and your personal interests that relate to the founding of FarmHer?
Marji Guyler-Alaniz (MGA): I have always loved photography as a way to express myself and how I see the world. In March 2013 I read an article pointing out the lack of women in one of the popular Super Bowl commercials. It struck a nerve with me. I had an ah-ha moment when I realized that there was a huge hole in the image of a farmer. I had never realized it before, but everywhere you look images of a farmer are mostly men. Women have always been an important part of our agriculture system but have just not been portrayed as the farmer. So I decided that I would start FarmHer, a project to document women in agriculture. My goal at that point was to show the world that women are farmers, too, and to do that through photographs.
FT: What do you look for in photographing a perfect picture that reflects the purpose for FarmHer?
MGA: I follow each FarmHer and try to document what they do. I look for the simplicity, the beauty in their everyday work. To me, the perfect image is not posed or uncomfortable. It shows some part of that FarmHer as she does her work. It may be a hand, a hair braid, or a boot. Anything to show that she is a woman and she is a farmer. It is not always a face. In fact, I rarely show faces. It is about the beauty in their work.
FT: Can you give us some examples of some stories you’ve heard from women farmers?
MGA: As I am photographing we usually have a discussion about how they came to be a FarmHer. One woman told me stories of horrible comments made to her as she started her dairy in a very male-dominated field. She talked about how she went through the steps to get a loan with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and that led her to her life’s calling in her Organic Dairy. There was a woman who came to the U.S. as a refugee, by herself, with no family. She works at a farm all day, every day, and then goes to school at night. Her story is full of human resilience and is really very inspirational to me. There are so many stories. A common theme through each is the drive and desire to stay or become a farmer. Each woman has her own unique story, but each one has led her to a life in agriculture, and that is really what I focus on.
FT: What is the long-term purpose and goal of FarmHer? What do you hope for in the future as a result of this project?
MGA: My goal is still to show the world that women are farmers, too. I have heard from so many women over the past year and am working on a number of ideas right now for the coming year. I hope to show more FarmHer prints throughout the country, in galleries, agriculture conferences, shows, etc. I hope to work with more large organizations to weave these images into their messages that really define agriculture in our society. I hope to make it a little further out of the Midwest as I continue to photograph these women FarmHers. I am currently seeking publishers for a FarmHer book. I also am starting a monthly FarmHer page in Acreage Life magazine. This will feature a few new images along with the story of the FarmHer shown. So many ideas that I have to pace myself to get it all done while, of course, sticking with my true love, which is photographing these amazing women!
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