Q&A: Hilda Ashe, Hay Farmer and Farm Bureau County President
Women have always been mainstays on farms across the country. If not out in the fields, they are behind the scenes making sure everything else runs smoothly. But more often than not, farm women are right there next to the men, in addition to all their other chores on the farm. McNairy County farmer Hilda Ashe is no different.
“I grew up on a farm – my dad and brothers were farmers. When I got out of school, I married a farmer. So it’s always been a part of my life,” Ashe says.
The Ashe farm consists of 50 acres of pasture, 20 acres of hay, 18 cows and a bull. Ashe says her brother and his family are instrumental in helping run the farm, where they bale 4,000-5,000 square bales of hay for the horse industry and their own use each year.
Q: Agriculture is not a 9-5 job. How do you accomplish all that needs doing?
A: Farming takes a special person; you either have it or you don’t. I love what I do. It’s been a way of life in this country since the beginning, and it’s something we have to protect and continue to pursue in the future. There’s nothing like the thrill of seeing a calf being born and grow up. Letting it go to the market to see how it compares to others is a different kind of thrill. And it always brings a sense of accomplishment to see that wagon load of corn or the bale of hay come out of the field.
Q: What is your message to the non-farm public?
A: Farmers feed the nation. The food you eat, all of it, comes from some type of farm, even when you can’t readily see the connection. We grow the hay that feeds the cows that are sold to market and eventually come back on our plates. And we care for our animals. We check them every day, feed and water them every day. They are there for a purpose, to be sold, but even though it’s our livelihood, we still care for them as if they were our own pets.
Q: Were you always interested in farming?
A: After Eddie and I got married, I wasn’t involved in the day-to-day farming operation. He was a row crop farmer at the time. When he got a public job, we cut back to the hay we have today and started dealing with the cows. That’s when I got involved, and our three girls got into FFA and showing cows and horses.
Then Eddie passed away, and at a time like that, you just don’t know what you’re going to do, but I did know I just didn’t want to pick up and sell everything. We let it rock along that year, and my brother came over and helped. We just sort of got through that first year with the good Lord’s help. By the next year we started making plans on what we needed to do and how to do it.
Q: There aren’t many female leaders in the ag industry, and you are one of the few Farm Bureau county presidents in the state. How does that feel?
A: I feel very honored to have a position of leadership in my county. I kind of just fell into it, really. My husband was on the board, and when he passed away I asked if I could have his spot. After four or five years, the president passed away, and they elected me president at that time. It’s just amazing – I’ve learned so much in my position, both on the county and state level. And you learn to listen as much – or more – than you speak.