A Photographic Series of Women in Farming Inspired by Classical Paintings

In June of 2017, while I was on a job documenting the women of Spice Acres, I was struck by their vintage-styled sundresses coupled with sturdy leather boots and aprons. The rainy evening ambiance at the farm created a nostalgic backdrop, and the combination elicited flashbacks to scenes in classical paintings, places I have only visited in my mind, but have left lasting impressions. The first painting I was reminded of is Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. I’ve always loved the mystery of the scene in this painting and the title of the work. I like the simple presentation of a woman in her element, not smiling or necessarily engaging, but celebrated in her role. The following series of portraits paired with the paintings that inspired them is a celebration of the role of women in farming.

The Shepherdess

by Johann Baptist Hofner (1866)

“My experience is that when people think of female farmers, they think of a grungy, dirty, weathered, and natural woman,” says Hannah Lane Dietrich, daughter of Solis Agro Flower Farm owner, Lisa Dietrich. “I’ll admit that some days I put on a pair of torn jeans, I run in to the grocery store in muddy boots, I pay for a cup of coffee with dirty nails. The next day I may go into my office wearing a pencil skirt and heels. You can’t always identify us by our straw hat and overalls.” (interview with Hannah Lane Dietrich)

Die Kindheit des Ciro, Detail,

by Sebastiano Ricci (1706-1708)

“We think we’ve progressed as a society, but we have to be very careful about forming narrow viewpoints of people, including women farmers,” says Missy Chambless, event planner and sales director at Spice Companies. “While farming tends to be maledominated, I know so many women farmers who are soft and strong, who labor, toil, and nurture. Farming shows the beautiful balance of who we are.” (interview with Missy Chambless)

The Song of the Lark

by Jules Adolphe Breton (1884)

“I’m most happy with my toes in the dirt. I feel a great sense of freedom being on the land,” says Jess Edmonds, catering director and partner of Spice Companies. “It’s empowering that most of this land is worked by women who work their ass off and sweat, and then we get to put them up on the stage and show off all their beauty though our outdoor events.” (interview with Jess Edmonds)

Posing with Posies

by Alexei Alexeivich Harlamoff (1848-1915)

“For me, the beauty of farming is the collection of flaws that accompany it: With every success and failure—or sunshine and rain—something wonderful is born,” says Ellen Dietrich, 15, daughter of Solis Agro Flower Farm owner, Lisa Dietrich. “It might be a beautiful armful of flowers or the feeling of pride that comes from the exhausting work it took to produce that armful.” (interview with Ellen Dietrich)