'You don't look like a farmer': Manitoba sisters break barriers merging farm and fashion

Manitoba sisters Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp curate a popular farming and fashion Instagram page. They have earned nearly 16,000 followers for their posts, which feature fantasy fashion and real farming content.

Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp sow with style on Instagram

Sisters Cassandra, left, and Stefanie Lepp merge work and play on their fashion and farming Instagram page, @thetulepps. (Submitted by Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp)

NOTE: This was originally published April 16, 2020.

They pose alongside a massive tractor, staring into the camera with a touch of attitude.

Both women wear torn, oil-smeared jeans, well-worn work boots and nondescript tops. Two massive buckets of oil sit on the ground in front of them. 

They wear no discernable makeup. 

In the fashion world, this is what you would call "farm realness."

And while they're posing like models, sisters Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp want people to know that their real job is actually changing that oil — and everything else that goes along with being real farmers.

The Lepp sisters, Stefanie, left, and Cassandra, squeeze in a quick photo for their Instagram page @thetulepps, after changing the oil on their tractor. The sisters farm with their father, John, on the family's farm in Rivers, Man. (Submitted by Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp)

The fashion meets farming photos, posted on their Instagram page @thetulepps, merge their two worlds. 

The sisters, age 31 and 27, grow soybeans, canola, barley and wheat on their family farm in Rivers, Man.

They started their Instagram page two years ago. Their feed is a mix of farming work-life shots and fun fashion photos, which the sisters brainstorm and shoot together inside their shared home down the road from the farm, on the land, or inside the workshops on the farm. 

The farming shots are taken during the course of their regular work days. The style and lifestyle photos, which often include their horses and their cadre of dogs, are more fanciful, posed and often ethereal.

The sisters are also the subject of a new short video by Winnipeg-based filmmakers Jim Agapito, Ryan Nash, Matt Purchase, Aleksandra Osipova and Paul Stabell, created for CBC's Creator Network and CBC Life.

WATCH | The Lepp sisters merge farming and fashion on Instagram:

Farming meets fashion

3 years ago
Duration 4:48
Manitoba sisters merge two passions, farming and fashion on Instagram.

The Lepps' Instagram page is more than just about taking beautiful photos.

They started the page, in part, to "showcase farming in a different light" and build awareness about the importance of farming, said Cassandra, 31.

They also want to help break down the persistent idea that women aren't or can't be farmers too, an attitude that still exists today, they say. 

"We want to empower other women to just get out there and be whatever you want," Stefanie said.

"One of the things we really enjoy with the tulepps [Instagram page] is breaking down those stereotypes," Cassandra said. 

They have nearly 16,000 followers, mostly from Canada, the U.S. and Brazil.

Sisters Cassandra, left, and Stefanie Lepp farm soybeans, canola and other crops near Rivers, Man. They started their farming and fashion Instagram page, @thetulepps, about two years ago. (Submitted by Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp)

On Mondays, their Instagram feed is dedicated to promoting mental health. 

"We try to keep it quite positive," said Stefanie, 27.

Keeping positive is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when farming continues as an essential service, Cassandra said.

Farming, by its nature, is an occupation done primarily in isolation, so the sisters have been naturally keeping their distance from others, they said. 

They also worry about the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses in their community, so they are throwing them some love via their Instagram feed.

The sisters, like farmers across the country, are gearing up for planting, which they expect to start in early May despite COVID-19. 

"Maybe the good thing to this is that people will appreciate farmers more," Cassandra said. "Maybe this will shift how farmers are needed."

Cassandra, left, and Stefanie Lepp post to their farming and fashion Instagram page, @thetulepps, about six times a week. The Manitoba farmers hope to broaden understanding of farming and its importance by reaching more people through their style and fashion posts on social media. (Submitted by Cassandra and Stefanie Lepp)