Meet Amanda Baxley, mother of three girls; Madison, 8; Myra, 6; and Magnolia, 2; and wife of Neal Baxley, a seventh-generation farmer in Marion County, S. C., about an hour from the Atlantic Ocean.
Neal is also an alternate for South Carolina on the National Peanut Board. Neal, along with his father Steve and brother Gene Robert, owns and operates Baxley Farms growing peanuts, corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat, tobacco and rapeseed. Also, they have a hog and cattle operation.
At age 32, Amanda is part of a small but growing demographic of female farmers under the age of 35, who, according to USDA, make up just six percent of America’s farming population.
She’s just like a city mom, only she lives and works on a farm.
“At the end of the day,” says Amanda, “I wouldn’t trade living on a farm for anything in the world.”
Amanda grew up in a military family, “so we traveled and moved around a lot. I was born in Germany and we lived in Turkey. I got to see a lot of different places and meet all kinds of people with my parents and I had to adapt to many different things. That has helped me so much as a mom living and working on a farm,” she said.
When her father, Jack Rogers, retired from military service, the family moved back to his childhood home in Marion County. Everyone in the family pitched in to renovate and remodel the “home place,” as Amanda calls it. Taking what she learned from helping to remodel their old house and her dad’s carpentry skills, she now makes furniture pieces out of recyclable wooden pallets. She started researching a project for her daughter’s auction at school this year and later built trunks, coffee tables, hall trees, and wall units, to name just a few.
She met Neal through a family member while she was in college at Lander University in Greenwood, S. C. and they married in 2005. After Neal graduated from The Citadel, he returned home to farm.
How did she feel about her future as a farm wife? “I was young and excited to be starting our new life together. And as time went on, I realized how much hard work is involved in making things a success. You’ve got to make helping out on the farm a priority,” she said.
“Recently, Neal was short-handed on help and said he might need me to come out into the field to help him on the Tobacco Setter. I’d never done that before, but I thought, if he needs me to do it, I’ll change my day around and help him. So, I learned it takes that kind of willingness to make a farm run well. And I felt pretty good about doing something new.”
A typical day for Amanda sounds like a typical day for many city moms, suburban moms or moms in rural America. “I’m on call 24/7, so whatever anybody needs, I’m there. I drive the kids to school and Maggie is with me during most of the day. Then the girls are in softball and dance and piano, so we’re running everywhere during the week,” said Amanda.
While Amanda did not grow up on a farm, her mother, Jeanette, did. “I remember my mother telling me so many stories about growing up on a farm. I remember as a child visiting her family farm. My mom took me to the field to pick the peas and we brought them home and shelled them. It seemed boring at the time, but now that I’m older I realize how thankful I am for the experience and how much I learned about growing food.”
Amanda is glad she can experience living on a farm as an adult and raising her children on a farm. “I want them to appreciate the good things we have right in front of us; such as the land and the chance we have to work the soil and watch crops grow season after season. I want them to appreciate how much time and effort it takes and get involved in what their father and I do every day.”
Photo: (L-R) Madison, 8; Myra, 6; and Magnolia, 2.