Danielle Wainwright, of Clover Valley Farm in New Jersey, shares her unique journey into agriculture and breaking stereotypes about women in farming. In this interview, she discusses the joys of farm life, balancing motherhood, and her mission to educate the public about the origins of their food.
Family and Farming
We are a family farm, for sure. My husband, Fred, and I have 2 young boys, 3 ½ and 2. Our boys are 5th generations farmers.
We are definitely a multi-functioning farm, being involved in agriculture in a few different ways.
First being, we are beef farmers. We are a cow-calf farm and all the beef we raise, I sell the finished steers directly to our community in bulk quantities. I firmly believe in supporting local, so shipping our beef is not at all something I want to do.
And yes, we have chickens! At one point, I had up to 250 of them. Ugh, I was a crazy chicken lady for sure. Since having the boys, I have scaled down on the chickens and probably have about 100. Chicken math is hard. Ha!
Second, my husband and I are animal nutritionists. We make all of our own feed rations that we feed our cows and chickens. Using the different commodities we store on the farm and mixing them into something that is fortified with vitamins and minerals to make a great balanced diet for them. We also offer these services to other farmers in the community.
In addition to the feed we make, we also grow our own hay to feed the herd come winter.
Were you born into an agricultural family? If not, how did you get involved?
Actually, I was not born into an agricultural family, and I did not marry into it. I found my love for agriculture as a teenager, after joining a 4H Group. I loved it so much, I went to college and graduated with a degree in dairy science. I wanted to be a farmer!
It just so happens that I married a 4th generation dairy farmer who had sold the milking cows 2 years before we started dating, but that didn’t stop us from starting our own beef operation. You know what they say about farming, once a farmer, always a farmer.
Women in Agriculture
What do you see as the biggest hurdle for women in agriculture?
Having the confidence to take that first step. Being confident is key, and not backing down on your beliefs. This agriculture industry is male-dominated, and I just want everyone to feel confident in themselves to know that they belong at a seat at the table just as much as the men do.
Comparison also stops us. I sometimes have to remind myself to put the blinders on and keep following that passion inside of me.
Looking back over your path of becoming a full-time woman farmer, is there anything you would do differently?
I feel that I got here as soon as I could have. Through high school and college, I had jobs in other male-dominated fields. It was uncommon to see a woman doing what I was doing (selling tools at Sears for 5 years during high school and college and working for a breeding company, breeding cows on hundreds of farms throughout eastern PA). Right out of college, I didn’t go full-time farmer. I had a couple of other jobs in ag-related businesses.
I am very thankful for the traits I learned in those jobs. I learned tremendous things that have helped me grow as a person. Each job I had definitely shaped me into the woman farmer that I am today, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Maybe all the mountains I climbed in those fields help me speak as a role model. I have walked the walk.
Education is key when it comes to Agriculture.
I see the significance of educating families that are far removed from agriculture. There are groups out there that take a picture of farm life and try to make a bad or wrong depiction of it and families that are not familiar with agriculture will believe it. That’s something that ruffles my feathers badly. So, I vow to show the truth about agriculture and I just love proving those groups wrong.
What are a few misconceptions you feel need to be addressed in farming?
- Fear-based marketing from manufacturers makes farmers look like the bad people. Everything must have a label stating it doesn’t have this or that. When in reality it NEVER does to being with. I always joke that I want to start labeling our meat as glitter-free. Does meat have glitter? Absolutely not, but me labeling it as that makes you think that other meat might. That’s what manufacturers do with fear-based marketing.
- We all really care about sustainability. We are stewards of this ground and of the livestock, and we do everything in our power to farm in a way that is regenerative. We want to be able to pass the farm down to the next generation.
Motherhood and Farming
In your opinion, what are the biggest blessings and the biggest hurdles to raising a family on a farm?
A lot of things we do are dangerous, with moving machinery. As much as I want the boys right there to learn from, for example, I just simply can’t divide my attention to watch, teach them, and then watch out for my own safety.
As for the blessings- being able to watch new life come into this world with them is so special. Even for me, seeing a new calf born is just like the first time all over. As you know with life there is death. Showing them how life goes full circle might be seen as a burden, but I see it differently. It’s a way to show them just how valuable this life we have is, and just to live it to its fullest. Have some fun along the way and not to take life so seriously.
Advice on Starting an Agricultural Journey
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in the agricultural industry but doesn’t know where to start?
Find a local mentor. Is someone farming the way you think you want to? Whether it be, livestock, garden, flowers, etc. Go talk to them. See what they are doing. I am very active on our county Board of AG and also on our state Farm Bureau women’s committee. They have great resources for someone looking to get started, and the farmers on those committees can also give guidance.
Having the courage to take the first step is monumental. Just take one step at a time; before you know it, you will be halfway up that mountain.
And remember, we are all at a different part of our journey. Don’t compare your beginning with my middle. Travel that unique journey; you are the most authentically beautiful person. Nobody else is like you.
Learn more about Danielle and what Clover Valley Farm has to offer. You may also like our interview with Darren and Meagan Orsage “For the Love of Bees.”
Do you love this content?
If you love the simple life and country living, you will love our quarterly digital magazine. Full of inspiring stories, delicious recipes, down-home living, and much much more!
© Front Porch Life Magazine photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder