By Joanie Stiers, farmflavor.com
Mary Courtney’s kids play baseball in the yard while she picks sugar snap beans. Another day, her kindergartner reads books to her as she packs squash for market, and later, she may teach a kid to bottle feed a calf.
With award-winning grace, this female farmer simultaneously raises farm crops with a crop of four kids ages 8 and younger.
“It’s hard to juggle being a really good mom and a really good farmer,” admits Courtney, who was named the 2016 National Farm Mom of the Year for her ability to balance both. “We look at our kids as the most important ‘crop’ we’re raising.”
Courtney’s support for the farm, family, community, and agriculture industry made her the first Kentucky farmer to earn the Farm Mom of the Year title, sponsored by the Monsanto America’s Farmers program. Courtney and her husband, Shane, own and operate Courtney Farms LLC, a successful, from-scratch family farm about 15 miles northwest of Frankfort. The couple grows tobacco, corn, soybeans and a variety of produce. Mary Courtney oversees their farm’s production and marketing of squash, peppers, lettuce, melons, and much more, which reach homes throughout Louisville and Lexington via wholesale distributors.
This farm mom handles payroll for up to 30 employees at 5 a.m. when the kids are still asleep. Throughout the day, she manages perishable produce and honors urgent demands to run for farm machinery parts. She plans produce plantings and coordinates deliveries. Yet she still takes time to make supper after a long day on the farm that ends with her son’s baseball game.
Her formation of Touch the Dirt Day earned accolades for its success in connecting consumers with modern agriculture. This free day trip to their working farm offers the public a hayride, an opportunity to fish, a country sunset, and the chance to pick a sack full of the farm’s “extra” produce.
“My biggest challenge and biggest reward is juggling raising a family and helping my husband run a farm we’re proud of,” Courtney says. “Doing it all together is a challenge and means taking the time to include our children in the task at hand, even if it’s not as efficient. Our children grow up in this life, and together we create a business that, if they want, they can come back and join.”