I spent my summer working as a tractor driver

An older man saw a me – a girl – driving the tractor and nearly passed out

“Have I suddenly grown horns?” I’ve been wondering to myself all this summer, as I seem to have racked up an impressive amount of stares.

It turns out, people have been looking at me with that wide-eyed, fish-mouth gape because I’m a female driving a tractor. Basically they see me rollin’ and they hatin’ (sorry).

Me and the beast

I guess it is pretty unusual. My dad is a farm manager and would usually ask my brother to help him with the harvest – collecting the grain from the combine, driving the tractor and trailer, driving the forklift etc. But then my brother decided to start his adult life and got himself an apprenticeship.

It started off as a joke – Dad saying that I was going to be helping him at harvest time. I just went along with it, not fully believing that I’d be able to do all those ‘manly’ jobs myself – mainly because it’s rare for a female to end up doing those sort of things.

Soon enough, it was July, harvest was starting and I found myself sitting in the tractor seat about to have my first lesson.

Since then, I’ve not looked back.

Lord of the Crops

I’ve had the absolute time of my life. There’s something so liberating about working what is widely perceived as a ‘man’s’ job – proven by the reactions I’ve been getting.

My peers were all slightly shocked when I first told them what I was doing this summer. Even now, two months in, I still receive the occasional message which reads, ‘how’s farm life treating you?’ as if they expect me to have maimed some innocent passer-by and/or myself. Some of them even said, ‘I can’t imagine you driving a tractor, that’s hilarious!’ but maybe that’s just down to my infamous lack of common sense.

Every time I pull into the side of the road to let a car pass, I wave politely at the driver, which has been met on several occasions with a stare of utter shock. Yes, I know I look like a bit of a scruff when at work, but I don’t think that was the reason for the stares.

One incident occurred when I was rolling one of the fields and an older man was walking his dog round the edges. As soon as he clocked on that it was a woman driving the machine, his face went a funny grey colour and he stood stalk-still and watched me drive about the field for a good ten minutes.

I’ve also been met by a lot of encouragement which I didn’t expect. A number of fellow farmers have said to my dad, ‘Is that your lass driving the tractor?’ in a tone of astonishment, but have then proceeded to congratulate me on doing a good job – one even said, ‘a better job than my sons could do!’

Fellow female approval has been met, too – an older woman pulled up next to my tractor and said, ‘are you the only female tractor driver around this area?’ I said I believed I was and she was so full of enthusiasm for me that it made me slightly embarrassed.

Afterwards, though, I felt really liberated and PROUD of myself, which is more than I can say for my other part-time jobs. I felt like I had a purpose and revelled in doing something a bit different, just as well as any man can do it.

They say I’m outstanding in my field

Who knows if challenging this stereotype will stop there. I’ll be back to uni in September for another two years but after that, if there’s a shortage in journalism,  I would definitely consider farming, engineering or another ‘masculine’ career path. It’s strange because before now I didn’t ever envision myself doing something more ‘technical’ – I assumed from a young age that I would end up doing some kind of monotonous office job.

Perhaps that’s down to the education females still receive in school – I don’t think younger girls realise that these fields are open to them. When I told teachers my dad is a farmer, there was never much reaction. Whereas when my brother has mentioned it, it’s been followed with the usual, ‘would you ever consider farming yourself?’.

Of course, younger boys could also be more encouraged to follow these types of career paths – these days there’s a major push in schools for people to go to uni or get an apprenticeship, rather than considering agricultural college or something within that field (no pun intended). Gender roles aside, I’ve found the job rewarding because you know where all the hard work put into the crops throughout the year ends up – in food and drink across the country, or overseas. Farming is an unsung fundamental part of our society – sorry if that was a bit corn-y.