Opinion: I’m taking the job title of farmer’s wife and owning it

There has been a mechanical failure of epic proportion here at Bohetherick Farm this week.

Not one but two vital pieces of indispensable farming equipment have gone bang.

To be fair the electric hob has been limping along for months but to lose the trusty dishwasher in the same week is about as much as my temper can bear.

With an almighty whoosh it dumped its entire watery contents on to the kitchen floor and blew the trip switch leaving me with a river running our the door at the precise moment the estate foreman popped his head in to update me on some long-awaited building work on the farmhouse.

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I’m domestically challenged at the best of times, I can just about manage to keep my tribe fed, watered and laundered, but take away my appliances and my homemaking skills evaporate.

It has been five days now without the oven or dishwasher and I’m fast running out of ideas for meals that can be cooked relying entirely on the microwave.

Thankfully the kids are quite keen on fish fingers and chicken Kievs.

Grimy water

As for the dishwasher situation, I’m getting so sick and tired of plunging my hands into soapy, grimy water and dealing with the endless mountain of crockery, I’m considering the merits of applying a minimalist attitude and smashing them all save one dinner plate and mug each plus one for guests.

Trying to convince William my recent breakdowns merit as much drama and panic as a bust pto shaft on the baler when rain is forecast is proving difficult.

It’s ironic many of the most menial farm jobs have been mechanised to the point where the farmer can do them from the relative comfort of a tractor cab, yet when the machinery proves too big or the job too fiddly it invariably falls to my lot to dust off the pitchfork and get stuck in.


I spent a good deal of time pondering this the other day as I forked about four tonnes of dung out of the old bull pens.

There has been a good deal of discussion about women in agriculture over the past few weeks and I have read with interest.

One of my neighbours remarked the other day that coming to my house was a bit like stepping back in time to the 1950s.

Personally, I like to think we are a little more modern than that but nonetheless, on our farm as on many others, the division of labour definitely falls on rather traditional lines.

Does that mean that my contribution is any less valuable or important?

There are lots of women blazing a trail in highly skilled agricultural careers and I doubt they feel like they are any less valued than their male counterparts.

But there is a veritable army of women like me. I’ve got a good agricultural degree, I am an equal partner in our farm business and I’m responsible for as much of the day-to-day management of the family farm as my husband, albeit not often from the tractor seat.

My role encompasses all aspects of running the farm and the family, the two are inseparable.

One minute I’m loading the washing machine with school uniforms, the next I’m mixing up calf milk powder while breaking up a scrap between the children.


Most of the manual farm work falls to me, my tractor-driving skills are in demand at silage time for jobs such as raking and tedding, but day-to-day, my role is more physical and administrative.

I switch instantly from general farmworker to secretary then to mum as I juggle getting lunch ready while arranging TB tests and sorting laundry.

The title of “farmer’s wife” isn’t one you hear very often these days, being defined by your marital status isn’t very modern.

However, when I think about what I do everyday and the way I manage my business and my family, a farmer’s wife is the title that fits me best and I’ve chosen to own it.  

I am the one who does all of the farm admin, I am the one who deals with all the animal health tasks, from calving a suckler cow in the pouring rain to administering wormers and vaccines.

I manage the farm diversifications (campsite, Christmas trees, hay sales), I cook all the meals, do all the cleaning, laundry, school run and so on.

All of these tasks and many more I do seven days a week.

When I get in off the farm and kick my boots off I’m not done working – juggling  small children and a farmhouse is no picnic, especially with all the added dirt associated with farming kids.

Defining myself a farmer’s wife might seem antifeminist to some, but every man whose spouse is a farmer is a farmer’s husband too.

Small family farms might not be the most modern of workplaces but the seamless cohesion between the business and the family is what makes us so resilient.

The women you see at market standing beside their husbands are half the workforce, we aren’t all glamorous and we don’t need recognition from anyone else to know our own value.

We know the wheels would soon fall off if we weren’t running the show from the kitchen table.

Jess Jeans and her husband Will run 75 suckler cows on an 80ha National Trust farm on the Devon/Cornwall border. They have two children, Teddy and Lydia. Jess has a degree in rural business management and enjoys horse riding in her spare time

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