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Woman Farmer Wednesdays, Women and Food, Women Farming

Redefining the Farm Woman

Photo by Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Doermann lives alone in her farmhouse perched atop a hill in Anamosa, Iowa.  Now in her 80s, Doermann became the sole farm owner when her husband died suddenly some 40 years ago.

“I was teaching, one girl was in high school, one in college,” she said. “We had the funeral. Gathered our parts up and went on.”

Doermann quickly found a renter, someone whose family she and her husband had worked with before. Because part of the farm is quite hilly, Doermann and her husband had put in contour strips —planted rows running along the hillside designed to prevent erosion.

Doermann explained to her renter that he needed to farm along the contour strips, not just plant up and down the hill. But he ignored her.

“He planted up and down the hill — I told him not to do it again the next year,” she said. “We had big rain in the night; he was feeding cattle, saw me in nightgown — looking where water going under road. He knew he’d been had.”

The rain had washed out the soil and the corn he’d planted — the next year, he gave up on corn and seeded with oats, as Doermann suggested.

In her own way, Doermann worked it out with her renter.

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