By Eileen Jordan, BS, RDH
The path to life as a farmer is unique for former National Peanut Board At-large member Eileen Jordan of Rayville, Louisiana. She began both her career as a dental hygienist and her marriage to former NPB Chairman Vic Jordan in 1980 and transitioned into a full-time life as a farmer in 2014. Here’s her story:
My life is not much different than other working women out there. I worked for 35 years at a job I loved, my husband and I raised three children and I am loving life as the grandmother of three beautiful granddaughters. However, my idea of “retirement” may be different from other people . . .
My Life “In a Nutshell”
After I graduated from high school in 1975, the local dentist in our small town came into my dad’s pharmacy and asked me what I was going to study in college. Like most 18-year-olds then, I told him I did not know. He recommended Dental Hygiene and it sounded as good as anything else to me. I declared my major that fall and did not waiver from it. I received my B.S. from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University) in 1980. (Yes, it took an extra year but, a girl’s got to have a little fun along the way.) That same year, I married a farmer, Vic.
Eileen's graduating class
I was fortunate to work for dentists in and around my home town of Rayville, Louisiana, including the dentist that helped me with my career choice. I always enjoyed my patients (who were more like friends) and my fellow teammates. I also have been fortunate to keep in contact with many of my graduating Dental Hygiene class. Teeth brought us together but hearts keep us close.
Like most hygienists I knew, I was also a working mother. Both Vic and I balanced a work schedule of some full- and part-time work while we raised three small children. The 1980s were challenging years for the American farmer. Vic often said if I had not been able to work, we may not have been able to eat. Thank goodness for my degree!
Eileen, working on her oldest daughter's teeth.
With all of our children out of college (with outstanding careers thank you very much) and three beautiful granddaughters, I decided I needed more free time to spend with my family. In 2014, I retired completely as a hygienist and donned a new hat -- “Female Farmer.” I thought working with my husband would allow that, and it does (most of the time). The farm has been in the family since 1841. We grow corn, soybeans, rice, wheat, angus cattle and peanuts. Peanuts have been a part of our crop rotation since the 1960s. The life of a female farmer is a far cry from my day-to-day life as a hygienist. The work is hard and rewarding, as it was in my hygienist practice, but the life is different.
A normal day on the farm begins at 5:30 a.m. I know that a lot of people start their days that early with a visit to the gym, meditation or a good cup of coffee. My 5:30 a.m. wake-up call is a rooster crowing and I begin my day feeding our five orphan calves, cleaning their stalls, supplying hay and clean water for them and giving any medication they need to thrive. I consider this my gym workout. Meditation is watching the sunrise over a newly plowed field. It gives a true sense of the power of God in creating this wonderful world. I do enjoy a good cup of coffee. After my morning “workout,” I am off to the farm office to pay bills, order supplies, keep the employee records in line and I learn about all the government programs that involve our farm. The afternoon sometimes brings tractor driving which is not my favorite thing. A tractor costs $250,000 and I really do not want to run it in a ditch but, as Vic says I “beat a blank,” i.e. I’m better than nobody.
During harvest season, I run our grain elevator (the facility where our corn is brought to store it until it is delivered to the buyer). One thing I have learned is there is no such thing as “not in my job description” when working and living on a farm. We practice sustainable agriculture and always take good care of the land from which we make our living. We use the peanut “hay” (the plant that the peanut was separated from) to feed to our cattle in the winter months. No waste is allowed on this farm.
National Peanut Board
In 2016, I was appointmented to the National Peanut Board. I was nominated by our local Farm Bureau and was very honored to be appointed to the Board by the United States Secretary of Agriculture. I represented the At-Large states (states that produce a smaller proportion of peanuts than the major producing states). Vic served on the board for 12 years and was honored to be elected its chairman in 2013. We are passionate about the mighty peanut.
The peanut allergy research funded by the Board is interesting. (I guess my science background helps me to understand this, thank you Dental Hygiene curriculum.) Since the inception of the National Peanut Board in 2001, the Board has invested more than $36 million in food allergy research, outreach and education.
Instead of retiring from dental hygiene, I traded one rewarding profession for another. There is an old adage about farmers: “Old farmers never die, they just go to seed.” When I look into the eyes of my granddaughters, I think about the seeds I am planting for the future and I know that life doesn’t get much better than this!