Working women
By Lisa Lopez-Lupo

The Riggs family sits down to enjoy dinner around the table. Laurel, (from left), Leanne, Lila, Layna, Cathy, Luke and granddaughter, Emma, enjoy vegetable soup, cornbread and grilled cheese for their meal.

“I’m better at tearing it up,” Cathy Riggs, 45, says. Born and raised on a farm in Grayson County, Cathy is no stranger to the frenzied months of the harvest season. And neither are her four daughters and her son: Laurel, 22; Leanne, 19; Lila, 14; Layna, 9; and Luke, 11.

The Riggs family harvests on nearly 1,000 acres of land with every intention of increasing the number of crops in the coming years. Like the madness of Black Friday shopping, living and running a farm is no small feat for a family of seven. No matter how early you wake up to hustle and no matter how much you plan to strike gold, the experience will still be chaotic. But “the good Lord” receives all the praise and glory for helping Cathy through the chaos.

Her main job off-season is substitute teaching at the local public schools, where her second-oldest daughter, Leanne, also subs. “I love subbing, I love being at school with my kids,” Cathy says. Though, once October rolls around, Cathy’s main job is working on the farm alongside her husband to hopefully be done with harvesting by Thanksgiving, as long as the weather cooperates. Full-time farming is the family’s main source of income.

She’s up by 5:30 AM, waking up the household to prepare for their best. Confirming tasks with her husband as he makes his way out to the farm. Filling up water bottles for the children before they jump on the bus. Reminding Leanne to be mindful of the deer on her one-hour commute to Western Kentucky University for classes. By 6:20 AM, the morning rush of the house suddenly fills with silence. But it’s not quite resting time for Cathy, who throws in a quick load of laundry to wash, mops the kitchen floor, and heads out to meet her husband on the farm to begin work.

“I’d rather be outside in nature than indoors folding laundry,” Cathy says. She moves tractors from field to field, sows the cover crop, helps put out fires on the land and deals with whatever else may come about throughout the day.

Yielding children who grow up to be good people will always be the biggest priority for Cathy, though. “Empathy and compassion for others, that’s what I want them to have.” Her most prized possession is an appreciation letter she received last month from her high school English teacher. She writes, “And, thanks for giving your kids good work ethics and a positive outlook on life. We need more parents like you all who teach their kids that all things are possible with hard work and determination and treating people the way they want them to reciprocate.”

“This letter will always be my favorite,” Cathy says, beaming with pride.

Layna, the youngest daughter, finds comfort in her mother’s embrace before she has to catch the bus to school.

Leanne stands firmly with her mother in front of one of the many family tractors, looking out onto the land they own.

Keeping the fridge stocked for a family of seven includes multiple gallons of milk.

Cathy helps Luke get ready to look his best when he gives his girlfriend her birthday present, a six-pack of Dr. Pepper, and other little gifts.

Cathy direct her husband with the combine as they prepare to harvest their cornfield.

Leanne levels out the soybeans on top of the grain trailer before being driven to Owensboro Grain, where they will be put on barges and shipped away.

Luke and Layna play in the cornfield while they pick stalks to sell within their community.

After the children fill their buckets, they dump their deer corn into the back of the truck to be bagged and sold.

Layna races through the soybean field to hitch a ride in the combine with her father.