She might have manure on her boots and a hat on her head when she comes to town to pick up groceries or supplies, but Jamie Peters of rural Hillsboro would not have life any other way.
Born into an agriculture family in Illinois and married into the Peters Cow/Calf Ranch southwest of Hillsboro in 1999, Peters believes women have long held an important place in agriculture and will continue to do so as food production becomes paramount in a world with continued population growth.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of women in agriculture education outpaced men from 2009 to 2011. The number of women enrolled in agricultural programs at colleges currently surpasses that of males nationwide.
Peters, an animal science graduate from Kansas State University, said the majority of her classmates in agriculture were male but she never felt like a minority or that she needed to prove her place.
“A true agriculturist has a love for the land and the livestock that consumes its bounty, no matter if they are male or female,” she said. “That is the way I feel about agriculture. I could not imagine my life any differently. This is what I know, what I love.”
Peters grew up on a farm in Illinois where her grandparents raised corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs, and her father was an equine science professor at a community college in addition to farming and ranching.
“I often saw my grandmother out on the field in the tractor,” she said. “It is only right for me to be a woman in agriculture continuing the legacy of my ancestors.”
While at K-State, Peters judged horses competitively under the direction of her older sister, who was the coach of the team. She was quite thankful to learn, after finding the love of her life there in Ryan Peters, that he was into farming, cattle, and horses.
“The Peters Ranch is where my agriculture experience blossomed,” she said. “My husband considers me his trusty sidekick and ‘on call’ help and I am so thankful.”
Peters, who along with Ryan has two children, Charlie, 9, and Ashley, 6, said her daily activities consist of general care and well being for the family’s livestock and keeping track of farm finances.
“There’s never a dull moment,” she said. “In early spring, I am out on a horse checking pregnant heifers to see who is calving, if there is any having trouble, or finding newborns. We check the heifers every three to four hours during the season to be able to assist any cow that needs help. There is always the thrill of seeing the cuteness of a newborn calf, the motherly instinct of a brand new mama, and the wonder if she is going to be over- protective and chase you to the nearest fence.”
After calving is complete, Peters assists with vaccinations, branding, moving cattle out to summer pasture, and watching heat cycles for artificial insemination. Since the family produces all the feed their cattle herd requires, there is hay to cut, grain to harvest, and a lot of fieldwork to fit the family’s schedule.
“During wheat or milo harvest, my husband will have me running the combine or hauling the grain to the elevator by semi truck,” she said. “He must have a lot of faith in me that I won’t wreck the equipment.”
Peters said she often has the children right along with her, as work on the farm continues as long as the sun is up, and sometimes even after dark.
“Life on the farm and ranch requires a lot of hours of labor and being out in the elements,” she said. “But it also gives me the flexibility to be at the house when my kids get home from school, and I can volunteer as a leader for their 4-H clubs and other activities.”
Peters said the hardest part of functioning as a working sidekick on a full-fledged farm and ranch was dealing with communication issues.
“Sometimes I have to be a mind-reader,” she said. “It’s hard to figure out where you are supposed to be when the wind is howling, the gates are banging, and the cattle are coming. Communication under stress is probably the thing we have to work the hardest on.”
Peters said good moments always outweighed difficult moments, and she never tires of watching baby calves at play.
“They play tag, king of the mountain, and have races,” she said. “People in cities or those that don’t get to work directly with agriculture don’t understand how much we love and appreciate the animals we raise. They all have such unique personalities. Sharing all this with someone you love is the best.”