Laura Upham grew up with chickens and ducks as part of her everyday life. Helping her father tend the family flocks is one of the many memories she cherishes from her childhood in rural Michigan. It’s also a source of regret for her: Upham now lives in Chicago, and a city apartment does not allow her three daughters the opportunity to collect fresh eggs or develop the sense of responsibility that caring for animals allows. And then came Barbie.
Chicken Farmer Barbie, that is. In her bright red muck boots and her Live Love Farm T-shirt, she is ready for a day of collecting and packing eggs and keeping track of her hens and baby chicks. Barbie can let her birds out via a ramp so she can clean the coop. She can even carry a chicken or her egg-collection basket.
Part of the Barbie Careers doll line by Mattel Inc., Chicken Farmer Barbie encourages girls to care for their birds and “imagine everything she can become.” Barbie’s agricultural adventures transcend chicken-keeping. Future apiarists can enjoy Barbie Beekeeper. Her playset includes a modern beehive with bees that spin, a honeycomb that kids can slide in and out, flowers with plug-and-play slots that allow “pollination,” a computer monitor and two honey bears. The beekeeper version sports proper attire, too, right down to her protective jacket and veiled bee hat.
For kids undecided about an agricultural specialty, there’s the Barbie Farmer doll, with a red plaid shirt, brown muck boots, and hen. Another option is Barbie and her Tractor, featuring a gated wagon, five farm animals, a hay bale and a nursing bottle. There’s even Barbie Farm Vet (should we call her Dr. Roberts?), whose playset includes seven animals, a barn clinic, removable casts, a feeding bottle and a stethoscope.
Having grown up in the era where my choices were limited mostly to Malibu Barbie and her Malibu coterie, I am thrilled to see Mattel taking its most recognized spokesperson and having her explore an ever-widening variety of occupational fields. Upham the Chicago urbanite feels the same way.
“I think that, because it’s Barbie doing these different jobs, girls see that these jobs are perfectly normal for girls to do. They too can be farmers or vets or beekeepers,” she noted. “I had an ERTL farm set as a kid but I was unique among my friends because every girl had dolls. Now they can have farming dolls.”
Upham plans to purchase the Beekeeper and Chicken Farmer sets—available at Target, Wal-Mart, KMart and Amazon—for her daughters for Easter. My kids are sadly beyond the age of Barbie but, just in case, I might have texted the Mattel link for the Farm Vet to my son Michael. Every good vet-school student should have a Farm Vet Barbie—and maybe, just maybe, he’ll get Chicken Farmer Barbie for me for Mother’s Day.