Missy Chambless

In our spring issue, Edible Cleveland published a series of portraits of women in farming inspired by classical paintings. The project is the vision of photographer Shane Wynn:
In June of 2017, while I was on a job documenting the women of Spice Acres, I was struck by their vintage-styled sundresses coupled with sturdy leather boots and aprons. The rainy evening ambiance at the farm created a nostalgic backdrop, and the combination elicited flashbacks to scenes in classical paintings, places I have only visited in my mind but have left lasting impressions. The first painting I was reminded of is Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. I’ve always loved the mystery of the scene in this painting and the title of the work. I like the simple presentation of a woman in her element, not smiling or necessarily engaging, but celebrated in her role. The series of portraits paired with the paintings that inspired them is a celebration of the role of women in farming.

Edible Cleveland asked each of the women to elaborate on how their portrait captures who they are, as well as their reflections on the power of women whose work is tied to the land in some way. The following is a discussion with Missy Chambless, event planner and sales director at Spice Companies, whose image was inspired by Die Kindheit des Ciro, Detail, by Sebastiano Ricci (1706-1708).
How does this image reflect you as a woman?
The painting that Shane sent to me in advance was so inspirational. There is such strength, and at the same time, softness, in the painting. Usually my mind is racing when I’m at work, but I feel grounded and at peace when I’m at the farm.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working events at the farm?
It’s all-inspiring. We’re so technologically focused and busy-minded as a society, and being at the farm offers people a different experience. It’s fun, but it challenges the way they think about their life and what they prioritize. My grandparents were farmers, and my mom grew up on a farm, but living on a farm was not a part of my childhood experience, and I think that’s true of a lot of our guests. We’re at the whim of nature, and people feel a greater sense of balance when they’re close to the land and the food they eat.

What does working close to the land mean to you?
It is a full-circle moment for me. It’s a clarifying moment because it always brings me back to core of what we at Spice are all about. Farming is hard, intensive, laboring work, sometimes with very little return if we have a bad crop year because of too much rain or a hard drought. We’re at the mercy of nature. It cannot be controlled. I am grateful every time I eat, and I think about the people who toiled and labored for this food on my plate.
How do you think women in farming are perceived?
We think we’ve progressed as a society, but we have to be very careful about forming narrow viewpoints of people, including women farmers. While farming tends to be male-dominated, I know so many women farmers who are soft and strong, who labor, toil, and nurture. Women like (Spice Acres farm manager) Andrea (Heim) and other women farmers I know blow any kind of stereotype out of the water. Farming shows the beautiful balance of who we are. It is empowering to be part of a team who embraces strong, beautiful women working in a variety of roles that are tied to the farm, food, and people.
The other women featured in this series are Hannah Lane DietrichEllen Dietrich, and Jess Edmonds.