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Woman transitions from suburban Chicago to farm life

Staff writer

Dawn Suderman of rural Marion grew up in Palos Heights, a suburb of Chicago, but always dreamed about living on a farm. That dream came true when she married Joel Suderman in December 2010.

When she was growing up, Dawn and her mother spent a lot of time near her great-uncle’s farm in Indiana, stopping at U-Pick farms for fruit and taking it back home to process. She looked forward to those times.

“I liked being in the country and eating fried chicken with my mom under a shade tree,” she said. “I learned valuable skills in preserving food.”

Dawn graduated from college and was working in Michigan when her mother got sick. She moved back to Chicago to care for her. She got a well-paying job and had a boyfriend. She moved back into her childhood home after her mother died.

When her relationship with her boyfriend ended, she became depressed.

“My world was falling apart. It was the first time I was alone,” she said. “I didn’t like my job. The money was good, but it wasn’t good for my soul.”

An aunt suggested she volunteer as a way to take her mind off her situation. She decided she would try to volunteer on a farm. The problem was, how to connect with a farmer?

She joined a farmer message board online and shared her desire to work on a farm.

“The men were hostile and suggested their wives would feel threatened if a woman worked for them,” she said.

Then a farmer posted a message asking single men how they manage a farm alone. She found out there were many such men out there, and they were looking for help.

One said, “If God would put a Christian woman in front of me, I’d date her.”

The message came from Joel Suderman, 53, of Aulne.

Dawn, who was 44, found his email and sent a reply: “Here I am. How about it?”

They talked by phone several times before they met in Kansas City at her friend’s house.

“I have to analyze a man pretty closely before I decide to have a relationship with him,” she said, “but when he walked up the driveway, I knew.”

They were engaged nine months later and married nine months after that at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church in Hillsboro.

Dawn still had her job and owned her house in Palos Heights.

“I didn’t want to sell the house until I had a ring on my finger,” she said.

She returned to Illinois and spent more than a year there before she was able to quit her job, sell her house, and move to Kansas.

“Living on the farm was a huge learning curve,” she admitted. “I didn’t know anything. I showed respect to others, asked questions, and learned from them. People have been generous in sharing what they know.”

She always has liked poultry and even had three hens in Illinois. Now she has many breeds of chicken, two turkeys, guineas, peacocks, geese, and ducks.

She likens herself to a perennial plant.

“It doesn’t do much the first year, establishes roots the second year, and flourishes the third year,” she said.

Dawn got a part-time job after moving to Kansas but gave it up when she developed health issues. She had a lot of time on her hands and decided to start a blog on a social media page. She knew of many city women who wanted to farm or work on a farm, and she wanted to let them know the pros and cons of a rural lifestyle.

“It’s not all about fuzzy chicks,” she said.

She started her blog in January 2013 and has acquired 3,500 readers.

In one post, she displayed pictures from a tour she took of a meat processing facility. Most people responded favorably, she said, some saying, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

In her blog, “City Life to Farm Life and Wife,” she explains the need for technology in farming and emphasizes that farming is a lot of work.

Cooperative Grain and Supply recruited her to write a social media blog for the company. She does personal interviews and posts pictures.

She said she’s happy to be living on a farm in Kansas. Her husband grows grain crops and has a small herd of cattle. She has three dogs and a vegetable garden.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I feel more comfortable now than when I first got here.”

She works part-time at Supreme Floor Co. in Hillsboro and likes everything about her new life.

“I like the people,” she said. “I like being out in the country and not having so many people around. I like my husband’s family, and I like our church.”

The slogan on the back window of her car says it all: “Farm Wife, Happy Life.”

Last modified Aug. 12, 2015

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