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Changing Role of Farm Wives Causes Family Stress

December 9, 1986

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) _ The nation’s agricultural crisis is depriving many farmers of an important business partner as their wives are forced to seek jobs to make ends meet, says an American Farm Bureau Federation home economist.

″It puts stress on farm families if wives are trying to farm and work full-time,″ Patsy Perkins, who helped develop women’s programs for the 3.5- million-member federation, said Monday.

″Husbands feel guilty because women are having to work. He’s lost that partner that was very important to the farming operation,″ she said at a state farm bureau meeting. ″If they’re not there anymore, then it creates some real physical and mental pressure that weren’t there before.″

Stress, loss of economic security and adjustment to new off-farm jobs are major sources of conflict for farm families, 200 Georgia farm wives said at the meeting on the changing role of farm women.

Pressures on farm families are similar to those on urban families when the wife is forced to provide extra income, but are intensified on the farm because the wife often is directly involved in the business, said Ms. Perkins, the federation’s assistant director of training in Park Ridge, Ill.

Joanne Minter, a member of the Georgia Farm Bureau’s women’s committee, said she and her daughter, Tammy, 15, plan to start cleaning yards and churches next month to help pay household expenses at their Fayette County farm.

Mrs. Minter said she also is considering the possibility of cleaning offices at night so she will be free in the day to assist her husband, Ricky, whose 360 acres of turnips, mustard greens, cabbage and corn were seriously damaged by the summer drought.

″There’s been many nights when we’ve eaten lettuce and cheese for supper. But it was worth it. I’d rather get the bills paid off,″ she said. ″If you stay small and work together, that’s about the only way you can make it.″

Ms. Perkins urged the women to form support groups and consider other methods of helping farm families cope with problems arising from debts, high taxes and low commodity prices.

Earlier Monday, Dean Kleckner, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the organization has appointed a 22-member task force to seek long-term solutions to the nation’s agricultural problems.

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