“I can’t see a reason to make a difference between women and men in agriculture anymore“

Caroline Hirschberg, TestDriver & responsible for field tests of ProCeed seeder at Väderstad

She’s only 24 years old, but already has lots of experience working in agriculture. Caroline Hirschberg is a TestDriver and demo driver at Väderstadt, but also helped with the building of their ProCeed planter. On top of all that, Caroline will take on the responsibility for the ProCeed field trails and she manages the German subsidiary social media, on top of her future position in Marketing Support. Women in Ag spoke to this ‘driven’ young woman.

WiA: Caroline, please introduce yourself!
Caroline Hirschberg:
As a farmer’s daughter, I grew up on our lovely family farm called “Gut Perdoel” in the northern part of Germany. The main part of the farm is dedicated to arable farming with crops like canola, wheat, barley, rye and corn. In 2011 my parents established a biogas plant and a farmhouse cafe in an old cowshed. Five years ago, they converted a smaller part of our farm to organic farming. I studied Agribusiness at the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen (Germany).

WiA: For how long have you been active in the agricultural industry?
CH:
I’m 24 years old and already have some experience in farming and agriculture industry. During my last years of school, I started with summertime jobs as a farm worker on our family farm, mainly driving tractors and cultivating soil after harvest. In university, I’ve done a 11 week internship on a huge organic farm that grew cash crops but also had dairy cows, goats for milking, egg production, vegetables, their own cheese factory, a farmhouse café, a farm shop and also an online farm shop which delivered organic products directly to the costumers in Berlin. My main tasks during this internship were milking the goats and feeding the cows. Some days I spent helping out in other parts of the farm to get an overview of the whole farm. As I grew up on a conventional farm, I choose to do this internship at an organic farm to see the differences between both practices and find out what we can learn from each other.

The following two years, after my internship, I worked as a summertime farm worker on a farm in eastern Germany during my semester holidays. It’s during my work on this farm that I got in touch with Väderstad. I had the chance to test out the first CrossCutter discs on a Carrier disc harrow and also was part of the first ProCeed field tests. (ProCeed is a new drill from Väderstad – ed.d). After my summertime farm work, I did a practical semester as assistant of a farm advisor. In that way, I had the chance to see many different farms and the way they do their business.

About a year ago, I started working for Väderstad as a TestDriver. I planted many hectares with the new ProCeed planter, and thanks to my experience in the field I became part of the building team of the machine afterwards. I helped with the building of 2 ProCeed prototypes. For me that was a great way to get a deeper knowledge of the machine.

WiA: What is your current position at Väderstad?
CH:
For the moment I’m working as a TestDriver and demo driver, and with the start of planting season I will be taking over the responsibility for the field trails and test of the ProCeed planter. Next to that, I also am managing the social media of the German subsidiary of Väderstad. I will also take up a position as Marketing Support.

WiA: You have a lot of practical experience. Did you notice a difference in perception between men and women in agriculture?
CH:
While working on the farms in Germany, I certainly noticed a difference between men and women. Often, the men were a bit “afraid” that I would be able to do the same work as them. I think this often had to do with the difference in physical power. But I learned that most of the time, there is a way to get things done anyway. Besides, there is no shame in asking for help! And actually when it comes down to driving a tractor, there is no difference between genders.

At Väderstad, I never noticed a difference in the treatment of men or women. We are equals in such a way that there are never questions whether I can do something or not, or that a job is better suited for a male colleague. I have several fellow TestDrivers, both male and female, who run the same tractors and equipment, without there being any difference. When I first arrived at Väderstad and walked through the factory, I was quite impressed when I saw how many women are working there and how user-friendly the working spaces are designed.

WiA: How do you see the role of women in agriculture? Are there typical female tasks on a farm or not at all, according to you?
CH:
Not so long ago, there were typical female tasks on the farm like milking the cows, taking care of the calves, things you can call the physically “easy” tasks. For the men on the farm, there were the “hard” tasks like Field work, handling machines and driving tractors. If the same division of tasks still exists on modern farms, it’s often due to personal choices and interests and not so much because of physical conditions or body power needed to do certain tasks.

I do think we are evolving towards a more female agricultural sector at a rather high pace, as more and more girls are taking over the family farms. When I was in college, the ratio female/male students was about 50/50, a number that definitely changed over the years. But you also see more and more girls doing summertime farm jobs. Women in agriculture are certainly thriving.

WiA: How do you see the future of farming and the differences between men and women?
CH
: For me there is no reason to make a difference between men and women in the future of agriculture. We live in a highly specialised world, where things are getting easier thanks to technical support and evolution. Robots are also on the rise in agriculture, and they will take away the last boundaries between typical male and female roles or tasks. With robots or mechanical helpers doing difficult or physically challenging jobs, we as humans can stay healthy longer and prevent harm to our bodies. This had nothing to do with females having less strength than men, but everything with maintaining a healthy body.

WiA: As a final question, what is a “woman in agriculture”, to you?
CH:
For me a woman in agriculture is nothing special. I can’t see a reason to make a difference between women and men in agriculture anymore.

 

 

 

 

This article was published in Women in Ag Magazine 2022-3. Click here to read the magazine.

 

 

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