Meet the Lepp sisters, Cassandra “Cass” and Stefanie “Stef,” fourth-generation farmers and rising Instagram influencers. And they’re breaking the molds of what farmers, women, and social media personalities are “supposed” to be like — all while sharing the ag industry with people around the world.
The pair operate a crop farm where they grow canola, soybeans, malt barley, and wheat just northwest of Brandon, Manitoba. Cass, the eldest, is blond and 31 years old — her area of expertise is running the grain drill. Stef, 27, does all the preparatory work pre-season, and the two both spray and combine. Their dad is still involved but “trying to fire himself” as the family jokes. He also owns two ag companies with his brothers outside the farm, Rivers Air Spray and Springland MFG, which develops grain handling equipment. The sisters worked at Springland on the sales team until demands on the farm pulled them to take over operations there.
They also enjoy showing their registered Quarter Horses at AQHA-sanctioned shows across the U.S. and Canada. You could hardly pick a more fitting duo to put a represent the diversity and skills of the modern farming woman. And they are certainly getting noticed with over 20,000 followers on their Instagram account @thetulepps. They are empowering and encourage women in ag everywhere with their inspirational, humorous, and aesthetically pleasing photography.
It was exciting to get to catch up with the pair and learn what motivates TheTulepps:
What inspired the two of you to become involved on social media as women in ag?
We started our account two years ago this May, largely because of constantly being told we do not look like farmers. So, we started our page to empower other women and anyone and everyone to chase their dreams, no matter what box society wants to put you in. When you see someone comfortable in their own skin, it often makes you more comfortable to be yourself — that’s the message we want to spread.
Plus, Stefanie is a photographer and wanted to be a model, so this platform allows us to be creative and tap into that side of ourselves more often than if we were just farming. We enjoy the process of creating a good photograph. It’s been a fun two years creating, and we are so thankful for the support we have received, it’s humbling. Additionally, ag often gets a bad rap in the media and we definitely wanted to be a part of that conversation.
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There are a lot of stereotypes and misinformation in agriculture, especially around farmers and farming practices. What molds do you want to break for your followers when they visit your page?
We share factual information about farming and answer all questions and negative responses with science-based facts. We try to show that farmers wear many hats. They are farmers, accountants, mechanics, agronomists, market analysts, good neighbors, and the hardest working people we know. Growing up on the farm is an incredible gift, but the media often portrays the ag industry in a negative way with misinformation. Unfortunately, farmers are often not a part of the conversation (probably because they are at work). We wanted to be a positive voice and a part of the conversation.
For example, our dad is an ag pilot, and we get a few negative comments when we talk about the chemicals we use. Last year we related how little chemical is actually coming out of the boom per football field. That analogy was one many could understand instead of acres. Also, many people think it’s 100 percent chemical coming out of the boom, so that was new information for a lot of our followers.
We try to subtly throw facts in while remaining a positive page. The strategy behind fashion and farming on top of just being ourselves came from an idea by having both aspects we would gain a broader audience and a larger demographic. Other farm accounts are all about the farm. which is awesome and we love that, but we figured most of their audience is ag people. Our community is full of other farmers but also people far removed from the farm. We think this is a good thing and a great way to get our message out to the world.
Our parents also instilled in us we could do or be anything we wanted. Our dad just doesn’t have “no” in his vocabulary — for him anything is possible. That being said, we live in a world that is still very cruel at times. We want to be strong women for young girls to look up to while still showing our vulnerabilities. Society still pushes the concept that your only worth as a woman is how beautiful you are. We show pictures of ourselves glammed up and ones where we are covered in mud and grease with no makeup on; equally comfortable both ways.
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You two have a very distinct aesthetic to all your photos and come up with some very unique photoshoots! Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Many of our photos are taken with a timer and Stefanie’s Canon or an Iphone in a shoe (as the tripod), then she does all the editing. Sometimes we have someone to take the photos, but it’s rare. A few are collaborations with professional photographers. A lot of our ideas come from puns, we like to use them in our captions and will build a photo around that. We also like to use props and those inspire a lot of the shots. We get inspired by @tezza, @kyliekatich, and a few other Instagram babes. Our farm photos are taken in the moment and are generally just what we are working on that day.
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Are there any challenges you’ve come across in engaging with the public or balancing your social media life with farming? What have been some of your most awarding feats?
We post five to six days a week, and it’s sometimes creatively tiring as well as time consuming. When we are swamped in busy seasons at the farm, we try and have photos lined up and ready. Other farm ones are taken while we are doing the task, and our dad will often jump in with ideas. Those photos generally take less than 10 minutes to get and then they are edited later.
As far as challenges with the public, there are always the people who have derogatory comments to share with you. We have much more positivity on our page than negative and our community is really supportive of us. Some of our most rewarding things have been the comments from parents who think we are great role models for their girls, other women we have inspired and the positivity we have created for our little part of the industry.
We have also been lucky enough to work with some incredible local brands and met some of our best friends through this platform. It’s a really positive place if you curate your own social media presence and only follow those who inspire and uplift you. The story that CBC News did on us a few weeks ago generated a lot of exciting things for us, having well over 500,000 views and a really positive story for the ag industry! The film crew that put it together were incredible, and we made new friends there, too. Besides that, the day to day interactions with people all over the world are neat too.
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More farmers are adopting social media as a way to share their stories and create awareness for agricultural issues. How do you use your platform to promote and educate? What words do you have for other agriculturalists who are considering doing similar outreach?
We want to show our lifestyle at the farm and how incredible it is, how hard farmers work, how unpredictable our industry it is with weather and markets. Farmers are amazing and we hope that shows through our page. Sometimes we learn too because someone will ask a question we don’t know the answer to. We also keep it light so people want to stay with us while talking about mental health, supporting local businesses, and just have fun.
It isn’t about the number of followers we have. We enjoy the creative side, engaging with our followers and are overwhelmed by the support we’ve received. If you put yourself out there on social media is to not take anything personal. People feel they can say whatever they want from behind their screens, it isn’t something to feel hurt about at all. We answer all negative comments with educated science-based facts, or if it is a personal comment we respond with humor or facts and generally they stop there. If they continue to come at you in inappropriate ways, just block them because it’s not your problem, it’s theirs. Finally, make sure if you are posting about something it’s factual or true at your own farm. Be open to different opinions, ideas, and learning.
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.