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GustineAn equal partnership

Gustine lives in Carman and enjoys volunteer work and recreation in her retirement. Her main volunteering efforts are leading a unit of Sparks (5&6 year-old Girl Guides) and helping to organize the annual arts festival. Recreation on the other hand is a long list: attending theatre and concerts in Winnipeg, playing bridge and tennis, making pottery,
canoeing, gardening, travel, and Carman's Wednesday AM women's meetings.

Gustine says:

I am an almost 60 year old retired farm partner. My story has a lot of luck in it and that luck is mainly timing; both history and my age were on my side when I met my husband in 1976 and we married the next year. By this time the Women's Movement was well under way and we had re-imagined what marriage could be: women as partners rather than "help meets." We had heard about the Murdoch case and I knew the law wouldn't protect me should our marriage fail. I was thirty something and had had time and maturity as well as the social influences of the day to help me know what I wanted. The shape of our marriage and business partnership were things my husband and I thought about and planned together.

Dennis's parents were ready to sell their farm and retire and we were ready to buy and start farming. We had decided this would be a business partnership and had the help of a very supportive lawyer in drawing up our agreement. We had to meet certain conditions for our arrangement to be acceptable to Revenue Canada. Besides a formal written agreement, I had to be able to prove a financial investment and, that I did farm work. (An interesting sidelight is that these were not requirements at the time for brothers or father /son farm partnerships.) I was fortunate to have had savings from my eight years of teaching, a small inheritance and profit from the sale of my house to invest in the farm. All of these would have been easy to trace and prove had Revenue Canada ever inquired. Equally easy to prove was my work on the farm. Work on a grain farm is a fairly public affair and our many neighbours could have attested to my field work. In fact, they would be happy to tell you that they could tell immediately the fields that I planted - the rows it seems were not always arrow straight.

Sadly, my mother-in-law's work would not have qualified as "farm work" even though the dairy farm where my husband grew up would not have functioned as well as it did without her cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc, for her husband, four sons, a hired man and her father. These men were working hard too and really couldn't have done their work without her doing the work she did.

We filed our income tax as a farm partnership and split the income to file our personal forms. This allowed us to build our RRSP and CPP funds independently.

How our ideals played out in real life once we had children was slightly different from our expectations. Of necessity, we each had to do what we were most skilled at and that meant that I did most of the cooking, housekeeping and child care while Dennis did most of the cultivating, sowing, machine maintenance and crop care. At harvest time we were very lucky to have the services of neighbour teenagers who would come on short notice and look after the children while Dennis and I combined and trucked grain. Those were busy but well organized days. In the morning while Dennis unloaded the last loads of grain from the day before and greased and repaired machines and sometimes swathed grain, I would prepare food for the day, and generally have things ready for the babysitter. As early as the grain was dry after lunch, Dennis would start to combine while I picked up the sitter. I then drove the combine while Dennis trucked grain. At the end of the day, Dennis would do the last loads while I took the sitter home and made dinner for the two of us. After dinner, which was usually at ten or eleven pm, we'd tumble into bed and be ready to do it all over again the next day.

In short, we developed a system to share the work that worked well for us. I'm sure there are as many different patterns for sharing farm work as there are farms. Farming was very good to us. When it came time to sell our farm and retire we did so without regrets.

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