Farms.com is speaking with female farmers ahead of International Women’s Day
By Diego Flammini
With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8, Farms.com is connecting with female farmers across the ag industry, asking them to send messages to young women in the industry, what they’d say to their 12-year-old selves, and to highlight who their ag heroes are.
Charlotte Schwanke and her husband Dale have raised sheep in Wadena, Sask. for the last 10 years. In addition, she runs a summer camp, tutors students and is active in her community in other ways.
The couple also has four teenage children.
One message she wants to share with young women in ag is not everything has to be done the same way.
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box,” she told Farms.com. “It makes us stronger when we find niche markets and different ways to farm.”
When reflecting back to when she was a young girl, Schwanke would tell herself two things: go all the way, and don’t be afraid of the forks in the road.
“I’d tell her to just go for it and chase your dreams,” she said. “When you find what you want to do, jump in with both feet and throw yourself completely at it. And I’d also tell her to embrace when things don’t always go according to plan.”
Schwanke, for example, attended university in Calgary for interior design.
“I was supposed to stay in Alberta, according to my mother,” she said.
But as fate would have it, Schwanke met Dale, who studied agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan with her brother, Mark.
“I went to school for interior design, and here I am raising sheep,” she said. “But I use my background all the time. When it comes to marketing or selling ideas, or how our branding is on our products, all that is related to design. Just because I went one way and went another doesn’t mean it’s a waste.”
Charlotte grew up on an acreage next to her grandparents’ farm. Both of her parents were teachers but would help out at the farm during the busy times of the year.
Spending time with her grandmother and her mom had an indelible effect on her, Charlotte says.
“They were both strong role models for me,” she said. “My mom threw herself completely into whatever was needed. Whether it was operating the combine or running out for parts. She’s still like that.”
And her grandmother had a warmth that emanated from her.
“She was always so kind, and steady, and always made time,” Charlotte said. “And now, knowing how farming goes, there were certainly super stressful situations, but as a kid you never knew it. She was beautiful, and graceful and was just an amazing influence on me.”