Time for another episode of Farm Women Fridays! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Angie Gooden, whom I will forever refer to in my mind by her maiden name, because when you get to know someone in high school it’s difficult to flip that mental switch.
Angie currently farms with her husband in Kent County, DE. In partnership with her brother-in-law and father-in-law, the Gooden family tills 1000 acres of crops – wheat, soybeans, and field corn.
What’s field corn? Well, field corn is used for animal feed and other byproducts such as ethanol. Sweet corn is the corn you eat as corn-on-the-cob. In the field, sweet corn is shorter and is ready for harvest sooner than field corn. In Delaware, we harvest sweet corn in late June/July, and wait until September to pull out the combines for field corn.
The family also raises 60-80 feedlot steers in a beef operation. They purchase 6-month-old calves, weighing from 500-700 pounds each and raise them to one and a half years, weighing 1400 pounds. Angie says they are planning on purchasing brood cows this year and will raise calves from birth instead of purchasing them. The family sells the majority of their steers at the auction in New Holland, PA, and a few to neighbors and a local butcher. They also butcher one steer for their own freezer.
So what are Angie’s responsibilities on the farm? A little bit of everything, it seems. “I just do what needs to be done,” she tells me. During the upcoming wheat harvest, Angie might find herself running the grain cart in the field. Another day she might be down with the steers, checking on their bedding. She can also frequently be found at the local hospital – Angie also works as a Registered Nurse.
And let’s not forget she’s mother to a two-year-old, so, yeah, it’s safe to say she’s rarely bored.
Busy? Yes. But Angie certainly isn’t new to farm life. As so many of us farm wives did, Angie grew up on a farm. Her family had a 350-head hog farm and also raised a few cows. In addition to the livestock, Angie helped out in the grain portion of her family’s operation, baling straw and working ground for planting.
Growing up, Angie was very involved in both 4-H and FFA and was a well-known face at the hog shows at state and county fairs. She still shows hogs in the open (adult) classes at a few livestock shows in the area. “Livestock has always been my passion,” she tells me. Angie also helps some local 4-Hers with their own livestock projects, focusing on showmanship skills. (In most market livestock shows, a judge is rating the animal, but in showmanship classes, he or she is judging the person and how well they present the animal in the show ring.)
Like many farm women, Angie has some plans for expansion. “I’ve thought about opening a small produce stand,” she says. She already has a beautiful garden, but right now she’s only growing for her own family.
Her other future plans are focused on her son. When I ask about how he likes the farm, Angie says, “He’s a little young right now, but I’m sure he’ll show hogs when he gets a little older. Right now he just loves to ride on the tractors and combines with us.”
I can understand that. It’s been my experience that little boys love tractors – both toys and the real-deal, full-size machinery.
In all the time she’s been involved in farming and agriculture, what has changed? Angie laughs when I ask the question. “Everything has changed,” she says. More housing development in the area has triggered some of those changes. “There’s just not as much farmland anymore. We need to increase production on what we have left.” More and more people moving into rural areas are unfamiliar with modern agriculture practices or are several generations removed from farming.
Angie wants those neighbors (and all her neighbors, really) to know that, “we pay attention and we are careful.” This is especially true in regards to spraying chemicals or spreading manure. They won’t spray when it’s windy, for example. Not only are they trying to maintain good relationships with neighbors, it’s also in their best interest to exercise caution. Drifted fertilizer or pesticides are chemicals wasted, since they aren’t being applied to the crops. They don’t overuse chemicals, striving instead to apply just what is needed to minimize or eliminate run-off.
I find this conscientious behavior to be very typical of our farmers and their families. We’re all trying to do a good job for our families, our farms, and our neighbors. Thanks to Angie for doing her part as well.
Farm Women Fridays is a series of interviews that will run through the summer of 2012. If you have any questions (for me or the other women), please leave them in the comments or tweet me @carabecca! You can see all the Farm Women Fridays posts here.