#WomenInAg: Breaking down stereotypes with NOTL's Linc Farm

·2 min read

Juliet Orazietti of Linc Farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake never intended to be a farmer, but standing on 75 acres of land, home to a flock of 150 sheep, around 120 pigs and 16 cows, she’s definitely finding her way.

Having spent time during her childhood in British Columbia on her grandparent’s ranch around cattle and horses, Orazietti thought she wanted to be a vet.

While earning a degree in applied animal biology, she worked a summer job at Southbrook Vineyards, trying to get 12 sheep to co-operate with a plan to graze cover crops and thin leaves in the vineyard.

Though the effort didn’t work (the sheep had other interests), she came to realize that what she really wanted was to work with animals every day.

“I fell in love with them,” she said of the sheep.

But without a farm to inherit and looking at astronomical land costs, coupled with unwilling banks, Orazietti didn’t think she’d ever be able to run her own farm.

Fast forward through an animal breeding and genetics master’s program in Vienna – where she met Martin Weber, now her husband – to the pair accepting an offer to return back to Niagara in 2015 and raise livestock on land owned by, and lying behind, Southbrook.

“It’s a great time to be a woman in farming,” Orazietti said, taking a break from moving sheep fencing.

While she admits there’s sexism ingrained into farming, she doesn’t believe it’s intentional.

Tractors aren’t built to accommodate shorter statures, for example.

“Every tractor we own is a bit awkward,” she said of the size. “So my husband does most of the tractor driving.”

Good women’s work clothing is hard to come by, and she finds that on a rare occasion, a business transaction might go easier if her husband gets involved. “Which is a bit frustrating,” she said.

Overall, though, Orazietti doesn’t believe women are facing any insurmountable hurdles in farming.

“I get a lot of ‘sweethearts’ and ‘honeys’ from men who are not my sweethearts,” she said.

“I think it also takes a tougher person to be a farmer, and maybe it’s just more water off our backs?”

Orazietti finds women tend to be more open-minded, bringing different ideas to the table and coming into farming on their own terms.

And at a time when buying local is on everyone’s mind, Orazietti says it’s important for farmers to communicate with the people they feed.

“There’s a lot of mistrust out there and a lot of divisiveness,” she said, adding that women seem to be particularly good at communicating and bringing people together.

“It takes time to break stereotypes where farming is for men – I think we’re breaking those walls,” she said.

Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week