The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Farmer Q&A: Corn and Cattle: Focus on Women in Farming

Farmer Q&A: Corn and Cattle: Focus on Women in Farming

From the Farmer's Tractor

February 24, 2013


Nikki Weathers, 27, farms mostly irrigated corn for silage. Her family owns 25 head of commercial cows for club calves and a few registered Herefords. They farm about 3,000 acres of irrigated ground and 1,000 of dryland. They also custom plant an additional 2,500 acres of corn. Both Weathers and her husband each grew up on a farm.

How did you get into farming? How long have you been a farmer?

I grew up on a registered Hereford and Angus ranch in the SW corner of Colorado. My grandpa and Dad ran the cow herd together so I have been a part of the ranch all my life. My husband also grew up on a corn farm in the NE corner of Colorado. When we got married we decided it was easier to move cows than farm ground so I moved to the farm. I have lived on the farm for six years.  

How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years in relation to corn and cattle farming? How has farming changed for women?

With the cash prices of inputs we have been forced to become very efficient in the way we farm. Fertilizer prices have never been this high and we need to be sure to utilize them to the best of our ability. On the flip side, corn and cattle prices have never been this high. We now just shuffle more money in and out. It is very important to keep good books in order to keep track of all our inputs and income.  

In the last ten years I went from high school to college and am now on the farm full time. When we first got married I had a full time accounting job in town at our local co-op. I now stay home to help on the farm full time. In order to keep expenses down, I now help more on the farm so that less has to be hired out. I also keep all the books and stay home with our two children.  

How will corn and cattle farming evolve in the next five years? 

We will need to become more creative farmers/ranchers in the next five years. In order to keep up with the growing demand of consumers we have to constantly evolve the way we produce. The huge drought has also taken a pretty big toll on prices. It is very hard to be able to feed cow-calf pairs in our area. There is not enough grass and what you can find is very expensive. We will need to find other avenues of income to help pay for our herd.  

How will the female farmer's role evolve in the next five years?

Female farmers’ role will change by becoming more involved. Women must get outside on the farm to help with the day-to-day operations. Because we have corn and cattle, sometimes it is hard to be in two places at once. Therefore, it is important for me to be able to jump in and help where I am needed. For example, during corn harvest we were also calving so I must help take care of the calves before we go to the cornfield each day.  

What is your greatest challenge as a female farmer?

My greatest challenge as a female on the farm is being trusted as an equal. I was raised working very hard on our ranch and could do just as much as the men. Sometimes it is hard for others to understand that and be okay with it.  

How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?

We have to stay in constant contact with the changing retail world. It is very hard to know what they may want a year from now, especially with how much demand changes these days. We must stay engaged in social media to know what is wanted and also keep the technology of our equipment up to speed so we can quickly adapt

What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?

We use a strip till rig on our farm instead of a conventional disc. This will help to better preserve the topsoil and will reduce dust. We also have fewer passes through the field, which not only cut down our costs, but also help take better care of the ground. We are very careful not to over-graze our grasslands. With the drought we have had we must be sure to keep the land in good condition.  

Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?

The majority of our calves are sold to a local feed lot. We are friends with the owner so we have a very good working relationship on price setting and ensuring that we both maximize profit.  

All of our corn and silage is also sold local. All of our corn either goes to the same feedlot our cattle go to or the local grain elevators. We sell most corn at harvest due to small storage space on the farm. The corn that is stored on our farm will be delivered the following summer. All of our silage is delivered to another feedlot at harvest time. We have a custom crew come in to chop and deliver it all for us. We do not have enough manpower to be able to harvest our own silage. 

What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person? 

Most people think of a farmer or rancher and think of males. When I tell them that I also work on the farm, many are surprised. To know that I am able to ride a horse and work cattle or drive a tractor is fascinating to most people. It is something that I am very proud of and will teach my daughter to do the same.