Iowa photographer snaps shots of working farm women in hopes of shedding ag’s ancient image

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While women have always been a part of agriculture, it wasn’t until 2002 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally started counting them in the ag census. They’re often the hidden faces of agriculture, but one Iowa photographer is working to change the image of women in farming.

You’ll often find Marji Guyler-Alaniz behind the lens of a camera. Today, she’s snapping shots of her kids, but she’s usually capturing images of women in agriculture.

“It started as simple as I am going to photograph women farmers and ranchers,” said Guyler-Alaniz. “I take it from a documentary perspective to show them while they are working.”

Marji worked on the corporate side of agriculture for 11 years, but decided two years ago she needed a change.

“I left that career. I jumped off a cliff and I said, “I’m going to quit this and I’m going to figure out what’s next for me,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

And that’s when one commercial changed her life.

“Literally the weekend after I quit my job, the Super Bowl was on and there was a commercial on during the Super Bowl,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

The popular Ram Trucks commercial showed images of farmers and ranchers set to the poem, “God Made a Farmer.”

Guyler-Alaniz said when she saw it, she had aha moment.

“Hey, where are the women in this commercial and where are the women any where depicted in agriculture in general, especially in commercial agriculture?” said Guyler-Alaniz. “If you would have asked me to find a picture of a women farming, like actively working, you know, five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to find one.”

That’s why Guyler-Alaniz is passionate about taking pictures.

“My goal is to update that image of agriculture to show the women who are so important to almost every farming and ranching operation. They’re there and they always have been,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

She travels the country snapping photos of women working, in the field, in the barn, horseback, or barefoot. They’re lifting, digging, picking, and caring.

“I think it’s important for people who are not familiar with agriculture to understand who really does grow their food or raise livestock that become food or crops that become fiber, so I think it’s important for people to understand that, hey, there are women out there,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

Guyler-Alaniz shares her photos of the farm women and their stories on social media and her website, FarmHer. It’s also created a community of women to connect with each other.

“It’s having a face or having someone out there saying, “Hey, you are doing a good job. Keep going,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

She also hopes her photographs will instill a passion in the younger generation.

“I think an image speaks a thousand words and so by showing young women that there are women out there doing this, and if you’ve ever had an inkling that you’ve wanted to go do this look at these pictures. There are people out there doing this already and you can do this. You can do whatever you want,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

And with each photo Guyler-Alaniz takes, she’s revealing the faces of farming that have been hidden for so long.

To offset her travel and business costs, Guyler-Alaniz sells FarmHer t-shirts on her website.

She also shares her message through presentations and photo exhibits. Recently, she was featured on the USDA’s website for National Ag Day. Her photos were also part of a public exhibit.

“It was an honor,” said Guyler-Alaniz. “It was so exciting to have these people in a whole other world to see the photographs and to have women in agriculture on a big, huge national stage,” said Guyler-Alaniz.

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