Partners in life AND work

Many couples would find it nigh on impossible to work with their spouse or significant other and manage to stay together.

My husband and I work together and I’ve lost track of the many times I’ve had people comment to me about how odd this is and how do we manage not to kill each other.

We definitely seem to be in the minority.

But in the farming world, husbands and wives working together is par for the course in many families.

There is always a lot of work to be done when you’re running your own business, but especially on farms where you’re dealing with livestock and crops that always need attention.

It is often the husband who is the primary or full-time “farmer” in a household.

Many wives hold off-farm jobs to supplement the family income but still help out during harvest, calving or lambing season or do the farm books.

On other farms, husbands and wives work closely as team to run their family business together.

I’ve met many such couples, both during my career and while growing up on a farm myself.

My own parents were one such couple, moving from Switzerland with two young children to realize their dream of having their own dairy farm.

They kept long hours but the secret to their successful team work was that they each had their own areas of expertise that they were in charge of – while making the overall decisions of the business together.

Another couple I met this past fall run a sugar bush together.

Marc works with the maple trees to make sure there’s a crop to harvest every year, while his wife Diane is in charge of marketing that crop to their many customers.

The sugary, natural goodness of maple syrup is what Diane calls “a luxury of nature and a gift to yourself” when she’s describing her farm’s product.

Craig and Marilyn have a beef farm. Craig works with the cattle and is involved in the local Cattlemen’s association, whereas his wife handles marketing and on-farm sales of their products.

She also raises eggs and chickens to broaden their offering to consumers who wish to buy directly from the farm.

Farm families are unique partnerships, I’ve come to realize, that although they come with stresses, also make you closer to your spouse than you would be in a more conventional lifestyle.

I’m even seeing a similar pattern emerge in my own life – and I didn’t marry a farmer.

My husband and I met while we were both working at Ontario Pork, so for us, working together was a natural thing.

Now, we have a retail craft supply business that I help him with in between my current job and other projects I’m involved with.

I guess that would make me the wife with the off-farm job…?


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