Social media offers connections from a distance, and sometimes those connections lead to real friendships and even business partnerships.
Whitney Larson and Kylie Epperson had been following each other’s farm lives on Instagram and made that connection while simultaneously working on building a community of rural women. Larson asked if anyone would be interested in doing a podcast with her. Epperson responded, and the Midwest Farm Wives podcast was born.
The bi-weekly podcast — which is available on all streaming platforms including the Global Ag Network — and their individual Instagram accounts go beyond the highlight reel often shared on social media. Larson and Epperson have made it a point to be real with their followers and listeners. “Whitney and I are very passionate about sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly from the get-go,” Epperson says. “I think a lot of rural women are looking for someone who truly understands them. We lead a very unique life which can be very isolating.”
The most isolating times for many farm women are planting and harvest seasons. While Larson and Epperson both work on their family farms, that role doesn’t always fit together smoothly with their role as mothers of young children. That means they often find themselves at home with the children all day while their husbands are in the field. They offer these tips for staying sane during the busy season:
1. Give yourself grace.
Any notions of perfectionism need to be thrown out the window during a busy season. When it comes to meals, for example, it would be great to have a freezer full of pre-made dinners or a menu plan for the week, but that’s not always realistic. “I really try to lean on grace,” Larson says. “If we have chicken nuggets two nights in a row, I don’t beat myself up about it because it’s what I was able to get done that day. Let whatever you do be enough.”
2. Give your husband grace.
“I also like to offer my husband grace because I know he is stressed to the max, tired, busy, and still has more on his plate,” Larson says. “It means a lot to me to do anything I can to make his life easier on the home front.” That grace extends to his role as a father. “When I’m the only one disciplining, I have to stop myself from saying, ‘I’m going to call your dad,’ because I don’t want to make him the bad guy because he’s gone,” she says.
3. Ask for help.
Epperson says it’s helpful to recognize when a busy season is approaching and line up help before things get too crazy. “Maybe it’s calling in your mom, a babysitter, or a housecleaner,” she says. “Being overwhelmed doesn’t get easier the more things you add to your plate. You feel exhausted, you want your husband to come home so you can see him, but in reality you want help because you’ve been at home with your kids every night. We love our kids, but sometimes we need help.”
4. Find your people.
“Knowing that you’re not alone is a big deal, which is kind of hard when you’re right in the midst of it,” Larson says. While she does have friends in town, she says it’s hard to commit to getting together not knowing when she’ll be needed on the farm, and because she has the kids with her. “Just knowing that you’re not alone helps, whether it’s finding podcasts or joining the social media realm. That doesn’t replace an actual connection in person for sure, but at least you know you’re not the only person in the midst of this season that is super busy and hard.”
“When you find those people, it can be really life-giving,” Epperson says. “It just takes work to maintain friendships.” She also advises other farm women to say yes if they can when they get an invitation. “If your friends are having a barbecue, go, have very low expectations — know maybe you’ll go, eat and come home — but still go. You don’t want your kids to sacrifice that because your husband isn’t home, and you either. You need adult time.”
5. Have a change of scenery.
In order to help avoid boredom and reset patience levels, Larson and Epperson both recommend a change of scenery. “Take your kids outside. A lot of times they can be more entertained by rocks and sticks in the yard than by toys,” Epperson says.
Loading up the kids in the car to go visit their dad in the field, maybe for a meal, also helps break up the day for everyone. Larson says, “If it’s crazy here and I’m at the end of my rope, I’m like, ‘Let’s go visit Dad.'”
6. Be sad … but just for a minute.
“It’s OK to feel sad for yourself for just a little while. Sometimes you need to vent to your mom or your best friend or your sister,” Epperson says. “Sometimes there’s no real reason to be sad except that you’re lonely and haven’t had adult conversation for three days, but don’t let that absorb you. Feel that way, get it out, then get back in your game.”
If these feelings linger, though, do not hesitate to seek professional help. If there’s no time to make a visit in person, there are several online platforms that offer mental health care. “It’s OK not to be OK,” Epperson says.
7. Remember all seasons end.
Epperson says when planting or harvesting seasons begin, she and her husband are both optimistic, excited, and energized. “Then in the middle of it, I’m like, ‘Yeah, when are we going to be done?'” Keeping up on her husband’s progress helps. “It will settle your mind to know how close you are to being done,” she says. “It helps to know it’s a season and eventually it will come to an end.”
Larson agrees. “Continue to be a cheerleader for your husband,” she says. “The men also start really eager and energetic and wind down as the season goes on.”
Still, Epperson says, “Don’t wish the season away. You only have your kids for so long.”
Meet the Midwest Farm Wives
Larson and husband Bart are generational farmers on a first-generation corn, sorghum, and wheat farm in northwest Kansas. They have three young children. She doesn’t come from a farming background, but now finds herself in a hands-on role on the farm. She is the founder and host of Cultivating Courage, an annual two-day event for rural women featuring speakers, entertainment, and community. Follow her on Instagram.
Epperson and husband Jordan are fourth-generation row crop and hog producers in northeast Missouri, and also have three young children. While she didn’t grow up on a farm, she did participate in FFA, which led to her meeting her husband at a chicken judging competition. Follow her on Instagram.
Both women have found agriculture is their calling and their passion. When they recorded their first podcast, the two had never met in person or even spoken on the phone. Since then, they and their husbands have become close friends, and the two families even vacation together.
Larson says, “This has bloomed into a great best friendship and it’s really unfortunate we live nine hours away.”