Farming’s New Anthem: She-I-O


As nursery rhymes go, Old MacDonald Had a Farm is one of the newer ones, going back to around 1917. The opening lines put agriculture in perspective back in the day, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O; And on his farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O . . . .” Fast forward to today and the numbers show the average farmer in the U.S. is white, male, and nearly 60-years old, according to 2017’s Census of Agriculture, released every five years. They say farming gets in one’s blood and there’s no leaving. A farmer in his mid- to late 70s may ask, “What does that 58-year old kid up the road know about farming?”

The Ag Census had a big surprise. While women have been a big part of agriculture and farming for centuries, it was mostly behind-the-scenes. The census shows the number of female farmers in the U.S. has tripled in the last 30-years. Female ranchers and farmers increased almost 27% from 2012 to 2017, to around 1.23 million. Women now represent 36% of all farmers. Many are directly involved in making day-to-day decisions, as well as record-keeping and financial management.

Agriculture runs deep in the St. Croix Valley, from dairies to beef cattle, corn, beans, and maybe the latest cash crop, hemp. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at UW-River Falls (River Falls, WI) consistently ranks as one of the top undergraduate ag programs in the nation. The previous state ag secretary was from the valley and is female. Her brother also served as ag secretary.

All of this brings us to Land O’ Lakes (LOL), a farmer-owned cooperative based in Arden Hills, Minnesota. It is led by a trailblazing CEO, Beth Ford. Just over a year ago, LOL’s dairy foods sector rolled out a new branding campaign, called All Together Better. The company teamed up with country singer Maggie Rose and songwriter Liz Rose to create a rework of Old MacDonald. Called She-I-O, the song and video help illustrate the changing face of agriculture. LOL donated $1 to project partner Feeding America for every She-I-O share, tag, or comment on its social media channels. The $100,000 goal was reached a month early.

The She-I-O video is still available for viewing, using key search words Maggie Rose, She-I-O and women farmers. Enjoy the lyrics. Ladies, sing it loud. Sing it proud:

Sun comes up, she’s out of bed
Whole world swimmin’ in her head
Now you can’t tell her she can’t do it all
She’s five-foot-two and ten feet tall
She had a dream
It made her strong
Works as hard as her days are long
And Old MacDonald had a daughter, She-I-E-I-O

Look what she does with what he taught her, She-I-E-I-O
She’s got the future in her hands
Proud her roots are where she stands
Working on a greater plan
Showing us all if she can do it
WE can
She makes the most of her strong arms
She feeds the babies and runs the farm
She’s moving mountains and catching stars
She’s every woman and every heart

Can’t hold her back
With what she’s not
She uses everything she’s got
And on her farm her family grows
She shows her kids everything she knows
So when she’s older herself someday
They’ll make her proud and know the way
She’s the future of the world (SHE-I-E-I-O)
Don’t ever say she’s just a girl (SHE-I-E-I-O)
We’ve come along and we’re taking it farther (SHE-I-E-I-O)
With today’s new old MacDonald farmer