An open letter to my future farmers, Jennings (4) and Copeland (1),

I know you want to be farmers or a part of this industry when you grow up so I’d like to share with you a bit about my story and that you can make a big difference. I love you too much to let these things be unsaid.

I want to tell you about girls. You see, things are a bit different for us, especially in a male-dominated industry. Being a girl has been the greatest honour but also the biggest challenge. There are times when I’ve been scared and ashamed for being me. I’ve been teased in front of others about my body, been touched when it hasn’t been wanted, and made fun of on social media for my appearance. I’ve been called a number of harsh, derogatory names for things like smiling too much, walking by, standing up for myself and saying no.

Some of these happened in settings that were meant to be fun, light hearted or a joke. Others, not so much. But that doesn’t make any of these situations right.

This isn’t just me that it’s happened to either. Almost every girl has gone through this at some point in her life.

I’m trying to raise you as best as I can. I know I am going to screw up and I have. I’m new to this parenting gig. I’ve cried on my bathroom floor knowing that I could have said or done a few things differently. So that is why I am writing you. I can’t change the past. I can’t change the things that were said and done and how others have acted towards women. But I can help change the future, and it starts with you.

So here goes:

We are valuable members of this industry. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean my opinions and ideas don’t matter. It shouldn’t mean that when a salesperson comes to the yard that they immediately dismiss me and ask if they can speak to one of the guys instead. It shouldn’t mean that I’m ignored at farm shows and meetings, not taken seriously and not worth their time. We can fill any role on farms, in our industry and in society, whether in the field or board room. Agriculture is about growth and it takes all of us, women and men to make that happen. See us in the same light as yourself – powerful, strong and independent.

You represent more than yourself. You represent your family, friends, company, industry and so much more. Understand that your actions have consequences and before you act, ensure you are prepared for them. And social media never forgets.

Be a good guy. At the end of the day, be proud of not what you’ve accomplished but how you made others feel. I know they say nice guys finish last, but that is just plain wrong. Your worth is not about what you do or what you have, but about who you are.

Be kind. It doesn’t take much to smile, say please and thank you, and show gratitude, but it may mean the world to someone else. There will be times when being kind might not feel like an option but you will always be the bigger person at the end of the day.

Stand up for yourself and others. When you see things being said or done to a woman, a friend or even a stranger that isn’t cool, stick up for them. Don’t follow the crowd. It’s easy to follow and stand with the crowd but great, courageous people don’t follow, they lead and even stand alone sometimes. You might lose friends along the way, but you may also gain new ones that share your same values. The friends you lost may never have been your true friends to begin with.

A girl’s body is no one’s possession and should never be shamed or judged. I have curves and scars. I’ve earned them and am so grateful to wear them because they mean I brought one of the greatest gifts, you, into this world.

How you look at a girl matters. Look her in the eyes. Take the time to really see her, and her heart, not her clothes or body. She is more than that. Respect her as an individual with hopes, dreams, experiences, and emotions. Let her be confident. Encourage it.

When you eventually fall in love, be her rock. Make her feel safe and protected, but also be gentle and strong. The sure sign of a man’s strength is how deep he loves and how gentle he treats his girl.

One day, I hope you are the reason a girl believes in love and not the reason she falls apart, feels used or her reputation is scarred. I hope you respect women because at some point, I have been that girl too.

I love you now, forever and always. But if I ever hear or see you disrespecting women, I will find you.

That’s a promise.