Fall crops had been delivered to the Mid Kansas Coop at Castleton when Tina Collins started cleaning machinery and building fence in preparation for the cattle she would be bringing home for winter on her Reno County farm.
At Dixie Mattas’ farm the routine is about the same, down to the waxing of the combine. While Mattas farms with her husband Gary, just north of Lindsborg, in McPherson County, Collins works solo, having taken over her family farm four miles south of Pretty Prairie.
|Dixie Mattas and her husband, Gary, |
farm near Lindsborg.
Collins and Mattas make up about 26,800 female farmers out of Kansas’ nearly 70,000 farm operators according to the recent Census of Agriculture. Meanwhile Collins is part of an even smaller group of 7,943 women who are considered the principal operator of the farm.
Despite different farming operations, the two women share a passion for their work and an appreciation for MKC and how the cooperative has enhanced their lives in several ways.
Both women were raised on farms, and helping out was just always a part of their childhood.
“I loved it,” Mattas said of growing up on her parent’s farm near Bridgeport. The granddaughter of Swedish immigrants who lived in a dugout near Bridgeport, she says her roots run deep in central Kansas.
Mattas was thrilled whenever she could help out, running to the cooperative elevator to pick up the feed or picking up the parts to repair the tractor in town.
She learned at an early age how integral the cooperative was to the farming operation. Her early memories were of her father serving on the Lindsborg Co-op board back when it was the Farmer’s Union Elevator. That was the place where her mother brought her eggs to sell and her dad butchered meat in the locker plant.
Her father served as secretary of the Co-op board and she would hand-write the minutes for him, because her family didn’t own a typewriter.
Today she continues serving an integral part of the farming operation with Gary. He considers her a huge asset with her record keeping skills and tenacity with balancing the books. But, she also continues working as she did growing up, helping where ever she is needed on the farm. However, Gary says her forte is managing the operation.
He attributes the couple’s successful farming operation to his wife’s excellent bookkeeping skills.
“There’s a lot to know and she does all the bookwork,” Gary Mattas said of their operation that includes 1,500 acres of both dryland and irrigated wheat, corn, beans, milo and alfalfa.
Every decision the couple makes is done jointly.
“The implement dealer knows he’s selling the equipment to both of us,” Mattas said. “Gary looks at it from the perspective of what the equipment will do; it’s size and how fast. For me, it’s how much will it cost?”
Prior to retirement Dixie worked for 30 years for General Motors Acceptance Corporation. At one point she traveled to eight states for her work. Back then she even took vacation time to help Gary during harvest.
“I was always the truck driver,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder how I did it all. I drove the truck, but I made sure that we had a noon meal. Then I would stop by the house about 5:30 p.m. and pack up meals.”
Now, retired from GMAC, her full energy goes 100 percent into the couple’s farm.
For Mattas, the MKC webpage enhances her farm work in a very positive way. She appreciates the fact that she can use it anytime. Even late at night, long after the elevator is closed; she can pull proof of yields off the computer or download ledger sheets for the landlords.
“I dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T,’” she said. “I can’t be off a penny. Everything must balance and be reconciled.”
“I’m really thankful that the landlords have given me this opportunity,” she said.
Collins, who is raising her 6-year-old daughter, Copper, admits she has just experienced her toughest year because of the drought.
l they let me do it.”
Now she’s planning for a future and knows that record keeping is just as important as the labor.
“I’d like to expand with more acres and cattle and update the equipment, Collins said. “But, it will take a few years.”
She has never felt limited as a woman; she can tear machinery apart with the best of mechanics.
She appreciates MKC’s Castleton Elevator which is just 10 miles from her fields.
“The employees at the elevator are helpful,” she said. They treat her with the respect they treat any customer, and they handle all the spraying and fertilizing from the elevators at Castleton and Haven.
“I’m living my dream,” Collins said. “If I had to go to work in an office I couldn’t survive.”