Pink trac­tor raises can­cer aware­ness

Times-Record - - NEWS - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

QUEEN ANNE — At­lantic Trac­tor went pink for breast can­cer sup­port this past week with the un­veil­ing of the area’s first pink John Deere trac­tor. The trac­tor was sold to farmer and breast can­cer aware­ness ad­vo­cate Beth Stee­ley of Queen­stown.

Stee­ley is an or­ganic farmer and a trained vet­eri­nary tech who raises goats, bees and a very rare breed of chick­ens. Her mis­sion is to aid in the growth and de­vel­op­ment of women in agri­cul­ture as well as to pro­mote breast can­cer aware­ness.

Stee­ley saw her pink trac­tor for the first time at the un­veil­ing on Sept. 19 in the show­room at At­lantic Trac­tor. With Oc­to­ber be­ing breast can­cer aware­ness month, Stee­ley and Lynn Malkus-Lyons, spokesper­son for At­lantic Trac­tor, agreed that the tim­ing was per­fect.

The idea to have a pink trac­tor came to Stee­ley, she said, af­ter she read that John Deere had made cus­tom trac­tors — white for the Queen of Eng­land and black for the Pope’s guard. John Deere also ad­ver­tised pink trac­tors for breast can­cer aware­ness.

Stee­ley, who has a per­sonal con­nec­tion (her aunt had ex­pe­ri­enced two dev­as­tat­ing in­stances of the dis­ease), wanted to use her trac­tor to en­cour­age other women fight­ing breast can­cer while rais­ing aware­ness and bring­ing at­ten­tion to women in agri­cul­ture.

Farm women of­ten have it more dif­fi­cult, said Stee­ley, adding women are of­ten the cen­ter of farm op­er­a­tions, and women fre­quently make a habit of min­i­miz­ing their own health con­cerns and hes­i­tate to ask for help.

Stee­ley said she ap­proached sev­eral deal­er­ships and was met with sur­prise that she would want to pur­chase her trac­tor hay pack­age in pink. Af­ter be­ing turned down by oth­ers, Hunter Allen at At­lantic Trac­tor told Stee­ley, “Why not?”

Stee­ley said she was em­bar­rassed with the at­ten­tion at first, but she is grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent not only women, but a less tra­di­tional ap­proach to farm­ing.

The 21-acre farmette in Queen­stown is sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than the farm Stee­ley grew up on in Texas, but it isn’t go­ing to stop her from think­ing out­side the box, she said. She has plans to grow ver­ti­cally, op­ti­miz­ing the po­ten­tial for more crops in a smaller space.

Stee­ley said even­tu­ally she would like to cre­ate a non­profit to help peo­ple farm on small lots, tak­ing five or 10 acres and find­ing a way to make it sus­tain­able and prof­itable. Most gov­ern­ment pro­grams are not de­signed to help small farm­ers who want to be treated like a busi­ness not a hobby farmer, she added.

With help from other women, like Jenny Rhodes with the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice, more re­sources are now avail­able to help new farm­ers with work­shops and tu­to­ri­als, in­clud­ing en­tre­pre­neur coach­ing, she said.

“It is a great plea­sure to see all the trac­tor sales­men here to­day in pink hats,” said Stee­ley. “Ku­dos to you all here. It has been a shared ex­pe­ri­ence — tak­ing At­lantic Trac­tor say­ing yes to the idea of a pink trac­tor, a com­mu­nity to sup­port women in farm­ing, and women en­cour­ag­ing other women to screen early for breast can­cer. Now we in­clude many oth­ers in the At­lantic Trac­tor fam­ily.”

PHOTO BY HAN­NAH COMBS

The staff at At­lantic Trac­tor and Beth Stee­ley, seated, owner of the area’s first pink John Deere, un­veil the uniquely col­ored trac­tor in the At­lantic Trac­tor show­room in Queen Anne.

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