“If I had a nickel for every time someone has showed up at my farm and asked ‘where’s the owner?’” Katie laughs. “And then I have to tell them, you’re looking at her.”
Katie Dotterer-Pyle may not be what first comes to mind when some picture a farmer. First of all, she’s a woman, and second, there’s neither a straw hat nor a pitchfork in sight.
That’s not to say Katie doesn’t show some of the characteristics people may associate with farming: She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and is almost always up before the crack of dawn.
That hard work and dedication was something we set out to showcase in a recent video featuring Katie and a few other Land O’Lakes female member-owners. The video confronts stereotypes head-on, through strong imagery in stark contrast to purposefully outdated language.
What it’s really like to be a female farmer
Growing up on a third-generation farm, Katie first learned to drive a dump truck when she was 17. She saw her brother do it and wanted to learn.
But one of her favorite memories is when her family rented a manure tanker.
Katie jumped in and started working with it, knowing that it would be similar to driving a truck. Her grandfather saw her in it and got a huge grin on his face.
“I remember him saying ‘Nothing scares you, does it?’” says Katie. “And I said, ‘no, not really.’ I’ve been lucky to always have the support of my family, especially from the men in my life.”
Katie and her husband own the Cow Comfort Inn farm in Union Bridge, Maryland. They care for 500 cows in total, milking 350 of them twice a day. Her main role is to take care of the young stock and work on personnel items like the monthly employee meetings and some of the book work. It’s a business, and Katie has to make sure it keeps running – whether she’s working at a computer doing payroll or out in the calf barn.
But it isn’t for the faint of heart. Being a female dairy farmer comes with all of the labor of being a farmer, while also having to confront some noxious stereotypes. But Katie sees her position, as a female farmer and business owner, as an opportunity to educate others.
Sharing her story
“When they asked me to do the video, there wasn’t any hesitation,” says Katie. “I was so excited to show people that women farm, too.”
But when it came time to film, Katie just had to get to work on her farm and let the videographers figure out the filming. Most of the shots were taken during a day when one of her employees didn’t show up for work. Which meant Katie was hard at work, and the film crew had to keep up with her.
“On one of the days of filming, the film crew came out at five in the morning. I told them I don’t have time to chit chat. If you want to see what I really do on the farm, I have to go,” Katie laughs. “I was getting cows to the parlor, all the while bedding barns, and taking care of any newborns.”
It’s all just in a day’s work for Katie, though this time there were a lot more cameras around than on a typical day. While Katie can’t imagine being on any sort of reality show anytime soon, she enjoyed the chance to share her story.
“I would rather be out in the fields and out in the barn than in the house,” says Katie. “People still don’t usually picture someone like me when they picture a dairy farmer. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I was raised with the mentality, confidence and ability to do anything my male counterparts can do in this industry.”