The Farmer’s Wife Major contributors to most operations

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By Becky Gillette    Photo by Rory Doyle

delta ag journal
Pictured bottom row: Lawanna Bowen, Hope Richard, Candy Davis, Diane Chenault, Ramona Rizzo and Connie Andrews. Ascending stairs: Robin McKnight, Christen Davis, Sha Aguzzi and Cindy Grittman

Ask Delta farm wives what they like the most about their role keeping ag operations running efficiently and by far the most common answer is going to involve family. Many grew up with farming. Farming is in their blood and an opportunity for a type of family togetherness rarely found today.

Many Delta farm wives often spend hours per day feeding the workers who are feeding the world.

“I love harvest season,” says Angie Zepponi, Greenville, who is married to Tim Zepponi. “I love the guys who work for my husband. It is like a big family. During planting and harvest season, the men are working from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. So, to save them time, I get them lunches and dinner. I also have a business in Greenville, Lagniappe in Greenville. I’ll go to work, and then go deliver 7 to 10 lunches to workers spread out in two counties. It takes a good two hours. I go back to work, and then deliver dinner, which takes another two hours.”

Angie pays the bills, and runs the family. It is hard work.

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “It is a lifestyle that gets into your blood. It is hard to leave. The Delta is a special place.”

Vonda Burns, who is married to Del Burns and lives near Greenville, is the granddaughter, daughter, wife and mother of farmers and a farmer in her own right.

“I have been a farmer legally since I was nine years old,” Vonda says. “Since Del and I married, we have moved several times when we found better ground, but have always tried to stay on the farm instead of living in town so our children would grow up on the farm. We thought it was important.”

Like many farms wives, Vonda takes care of most of office work. Between that and raising kids and animals, she’s never been bored.

Katelyn Bailey, whose husband Britt grows sweet potatoes in Calhoun and Tallahatchie counties, helps her mother-in-law with paperwork.

“We have Mexican workers who come and put sweet potato plants in the ground,” Katelyn says. “It is a lot different from cotton, corn and soybeans, and takes a lot of manpower. You have to keep up with the hours they work. I assist my husband carrying meals, or picking up a part. Whatever he needs done, I’m there to serve him and serve the workers. My husband really does appreciate me, his mother and his sister, and the impact we make on the farm.”

What is the most fun part of the job? Katelyn loves taking her husband meals just so she can spend some time with him.

“Also, the thrill of watching something grow and produce–God’s beauty in creating food–is amazing,” Katelyn says.

For Cherrie Lynn Britt of Indianola, who is married to Boyer Britt, III, a highlight for her is getting to see her family so often.

“For almost 28 years I have taken them farm lunches pretty much every day,” Cherrie says. “That takes several hours of my day with picking up lunches and delivering them. My husband and son, Cody, who farms with his dad, sit in my car and we visit while they eat. During planting and harvest times, that is about the only time we actually get to visit.”

When she was growing up, Cherrie swore she was never marrying a farmer. But then she met her husband in college and her plans changed.

“This is all I have ever known,” Cherrie says. “My father and grandfather farmed, and I have two older brothers who farm.”

Cindy Grittman is the support system for her husband Allan and their farm in Ruleville.

“I do the books for the farm and do anything else he asks me to do,” she says. ‘The planting and growing and harvest season are very long hours. It is really taxing. But he gets the freedom of winter to relax and hunt. I just can’t imagine him doing anything else.”

Despite the stress at certain seasons, they both love the farm lifestyle.

“I’m very proud of what we accomplish every year,” Cindy says.

Cheryl Swindoll, a full partner with her husband, Mike, on their farm near Tutwiler, is the office manager.

“We are a team. I run our home and office so that he can focus on farm management,” Cheryl says.  “Hours can be long and intense, but we both enjoy the freedom of being self-employed. When we have down time, we can choose to relax, enjoy hobbies, or have family time.”

Cathy and Bill Booth farmed for many years before starting the Shiloh Planting Company in Tunica. LLC. She is also the general manager of Buck Island Seed Co.

“Bill and I work together on any decisions concerning Shiloh, and since I run Buck Island Seed Co., I can help with the different varieties needed to achieve high yields and different disease packages.

She grew up as a farmer’s daughter, married a farmer, raised her daughters in agriculture and is very proud to be a farmer.

“It makes my heart feel good to know that as farmers we are helping to feed this great country with safe farm practices,” she says.

Robin and Bill O’Neal farm near Cleveland.

“We love living on the farm,” Robin says. “The kids spend a lot of time outdoors. They hunt and fish. It has just been a great life. I have a lot of hobbies. My husband is off all winter so that makes it nice. We can go to our cabin at Gunnison, and hunt and fish.”

Candy Davis has been actively involved in farming with her husband, Larry Shaw, in a community near Shaw for 38 years.

“My favorite thing has been the lifestyle that he has been able to provide because it does involve lots of family,” Davis says. “There is a time of year when it is strictly for farming. Winter time is always preparing for the next year, but there can be a lot of family time involved in that. We now have our two sons, Judd and Austin, back actively farming with us. Seeing the farm continue with another generation is rewarding.”

Candy does a little bit of everything including book keeping, providing lunches and running parts. She has never yearned for a life in town.

“Since it was a lifestyle I knew because I had grown up in it, it was easy to continue on,” she says.