The Heart of a Rural Sister: Tana
This month I had the privilege of interviewing Tana! She is a farmer/rancher in north eastern Montana! One of the things that stood out to me during our interview is how much Tana loves and appreciates her husband. Yes, they have their struggles too, but I could tell how much emphasis they have both placed on their relationship! I hope as you read Tana's story, that you are inspired too!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Tana, I live in the far northeastern corner of Montana with my husband Dana and my two daughters Tally, 10 and Tenley, 6. We have a cow/calf operation as well as a farming operation. Both my folks and Dana grew up in this area of Montana. We are a diversified and complex operation. Our operation is made possible through the foresight and generosity of a local man who invested in us and allowed us to begin buying into his operation after my husband moved home from college. The farming part of our operation includes growing sugar beets, wheat, peas, lentils, and corn. We also have dry-land hay, irrigated alfalfa and do custom haying and seeding. I am most involved with the ranching part of our operation and my husband's main focus is the farming. But we are a great team and work together for the good of our operation.
What is the most challenging part of farming? What do you see as the positives for your family in farming?
As a mom the hardest part of our agricultural lifestyle is balancing the responsibilities we have in our operation with spending time as a family. I am learning to occasionally put aside work, knowing that it will still be there later, and take a couple hours to even a couple days to make memories with our kids. I'm also learning to take those spur of the moment opportunities such as a quick trip to the park that my kids request when we're in town for parts. We are very invested in teaching our children responsibility and helping them understand that once we get our work done, then we play. But, we have to make time to play.
The book work is a challenge as well. My husband is really great at keeping all the numbers and data in his head, but then getting it to paper and organizing all the paperwork is a struggle. Staying up on farming and ranching policies and practices is another area that we find challenging.
How do you balance enjoying rural life and keeping the family at the center, but also giving your kiddos a chance to see/experience things outside of ag before they “leave” for college?
Growing up, my dad was the hired man for several different ranching operations. We were always blessed because our bosses always embraced the family. We were greatly involved in what my father did for work. I grew up knowing that I wanted to work in ag. With this as my background, I want to be careful that I don't assume to know what my kids will want to do.
Balancing what they want to do and the needs of our operation is a challenge. For example our kids have to learn to ride. We use horses within our operation. We increase the fun with horses, by going to "play days" where we enjoy interacting with other like-minded folks and enjoy the fun activities with our horses.
I also want to give them the opportunity to choose other interests. They need to try things out. One of the things I've learned is to utilize or consider the suggested activities from friends that we trust. For example, my daughters had the opportunity to try out taekwondo. I would've never guessed that that might interest them. But it turns out that it does and Tally is excelling at it.
As a kid I was involved in 4H and did many different things. When my daughter grew interested in raising animals she of course picked two animals that I had no experience in. We embraced her interest in raising rabbits and pigs and she is succeeding at taking on that responsibility. Her inspiration for choosing those two animals was another wonderful family friend. So make sure to choose your friends wisely as they will influence your kids in a positive way. We're surrounded by an awesome village and are very blessed. These moments make up life.
What are the unique ways you find to keep your love and attraction alive with your hubby?
Our farm ground is very spread out. At times when Dana is flood irrigating, he will stay out at a friend's house overnight because it's closer than home and he'll get more sleep that way. We don't ever seem to be in the same vehicle or going the same direction. Fencing is a responsibility that is challenging for us to do together. We've realized across the years that it's just one of those things that we will do separately.
We have learned to enjoy those small moments together in the kitchen while preparing a meal, to take those spur of the moment opportunities and have a picnic together, and to make an effort during the busy times to connect in the simplest of ways.
Texting has been a lifesaver for us because of the lack of cell reception we have in our area. We can't make calls, but we can text each other. So we will text loving, flirty, and sometimes teasing texts to each other throughout the day.
We also find those few minutes to hold hands and be silly together in front of the kids. It's important to us that our daughters see us being affectionate towards each other and being silly together.
My husband often seeks my opinion in front of other men. This is a trait that I really appreciate.
Doing simple things for each other like making a favorite meal, helping with the dishes, calling them to make sure to pick up needed items at the grocery store and/or grabbing a little something special for them makes a marriage.
It's important to know your spouse, what they like, and what makes them tick. Marriage is a partnership. Each partner has to give 100% and give their all. You have to share the load.
My husband is a very involved father and he plays with our girls and teaches them all sorts of things from loading a gun to mechanic-ing. But then he let's them paint his nails and does "girlie" things with them as well. I love seeing him play with our girls.
Being a wife/spouse in Ag, you have to have a "stake in it”. Be invested, willing to learn, and you'll do great.
Many women struggle silently with fear of rejection, belonging, isolation, loneliness and connecting with other women. Do you face similar struggles? How do you deal with that?
In the past I have struggled with isolation and belonging. I had friends but they were friends from afar simply because of how rural I was living at the time. When I first moved to this part of Montana, I was an outsider. I have long been a part of the "man's world" and I fit in there. You put me in a meeting or a get together for a card club and my anxiety increases. Over time I've been able to overcome that and enjoy those "feminine" type activities.
Now, I recognize that I need to surround myself with supportive friends who build me up and accept me the way I am. Friends that call you on your stuff. I have learned that great friends don't have to be exactly like you. But you have to be willing to be vulnerable. You have to put yourself out there. I had to put aside my anxiety and doubts, be vulnerable and expand my expectations for who my friends might be. You have to learn to be a good judge of character. Be kind, but if you don't click that's ok. You also want friends who understand the agricultural lifestyle and understand if you have to cancel or you're late because the cows got out just as you were heading out the door. Even if you have to cancel or you are late, these friends still want you to be a part of their lives and their activities.
Do you have any daily self-care non-negotiables? (For some this might be reading the Bible daily, others it's getting up a little bit earlier than the rest of the family to have a bit of quiet time, others it might be getting their nails done, journaling, etc. Why are those important to you?
Yes! This is very important. Now, while it, unfortunately, may not happen everyday as I plan, simple things can change my attitude and get my head back on straight. It can be as simple as going to check cows without kids; It can be knowing Dana is in charge of supper, so I will sneak off and sew, craft or do some woodworking. In the summer, I enjoy getting a good morning walk in, before the kids are up. I don't have a specific self-care activity that is done every day, but I have learned to take a few moments of 'me' time. It's important for my own attitude, my patience, and my family. If I am frustrated and upset or the kiddos are driving me crazy, a “mommy time-out' allows me to take a deep breath, put things in perspective, and not take out my bad mood on my kiddos.
Knowing what you know now about life and farming what would you tell yourself 10-20 years ago?
Never to give up on learning new things. It can be as simple as reading AG publications and visiting with fellow ranchers. Don't be afraid to attend seminars on Ag related issues. Although the basics stay the same, Ag is an ever changing world from technology, range and soil management, herd health practices and more. Never stop learning.
Last, but not least, What do you believe are the three most important qualities in a woman in Ag?
Understanding and flexibility. You have to understand that plans change, things change and you got to go with the flow.
Respect. Foster respect for your spouse and for agriculture. Appreciate the work ethic of your spouse, and understand the late nights. We are in agriculture, because we love it and we want to do a greater good, even though it is definitely not an easy profession. If you are just coming into agriculture, find your niche and be willing to learn.
Communication. Work on and make communication a priority. Stay on the same page with your spouse... whether it's kids, the farm, daily life, etc. Keep lines of communication open and balance it with respect for the other person.
Thank you so much Tana for sharing your story! Your words of wisdom and advice will be so helpful to each of us! If you enjoyed Tana's story and you'd like to connect with her further, you can follow her here:
You might also enjoy reading the previous Heart of A Rural Sister Interview with Bonnie. You can read that here!