4 Reasons to Raise Kids on the Farm
“C’mon!” my husband shouted from the UTV. “The cows are in the hayfield!”
I was in the barn filling buckets of feed. Our 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter were out bringing their show heifers in from the night-time pasture to the barn. The kids had spotted the cows in the hayfield and called their dad who promptly dumped feed into the trough for the steer, jumped in the UTV, and hollered at me in the barn. We picked up the kids from the pasture on the way to the hayfield needing all hands on deck to sort the wayward bovine back to where they belong. It was not yet 8 am … and so began the day.
Later, crisis averted, cows and bull safely back in the pasture, I shook my head and muttered to myself in a pessimistic mood, “It’s always something around here.”
“It’s always something.”
Let’s face it, being a farmer - a farm family - can be tough, no matter what your operation produces. All of the hundreds of things that can go wrong, many not in our control, cause a certain amount of stress and worry. Still, it doesn’t take me long to remember why we choose this occupation, this life. Why we choose to raise our family on the farm.
When I was a kid, Sunday afternoons meant a family drive out to the lake to my great-aunt’s farm where my dad ran cows and calves. It was always fun to watch the boats out on the water after we did the headcount. If we were lucky, we would stop at the little country store nearby for ice cream.
We don’t run cattle on the lake place anymore. Our kids won’t get that experience. I hope they’ll have fond memories of our family working together every evening in the show barn. Smuggling fishing poles into the UTV when we go down to the river field to check cows. Riding with their dad in the Fall at all hours of the night hauling in calves. The excitement they felt when they graduated from “gate opener” to giving injections on the cattle working crew.
Sure, the time farm families spend together working is often a necessity. It’s also a bonus.
The first few weeks the kids were out of school due to COVID-19 we were bringing in cattle for Spring cattle working and preparing to turn out on pasture. Social Media was also full of parents complaining about their kids being bored, already running out of things to do.
This wasn’t the case for our kids.
They were elbow-deep in weighing steers, giving vaccinations, deworming, castrating - our son is learning how to “cut calves” and loving it - hauling cattle to pasture and all the other Spring turn-out jobs.
Farm kids learn at an early age the danger in uttering the words, “I’m bored.” On a farm, the work is never done. If a kid is bored, a farm parent will definitely find them something to do.
Of course, it’s not always work keeping farm kids entertained. There’s land to run, bales of hay to jump, creeks to splash, rocks to climb, animals to admire, trouble to get into, and so much more.
Last year, our son decided he wanted to go in the goat business. Not super excited about that prospect, my husband told him he could purchase his own herd when he could afford it. Undeterred, the kid started saving money to put toward his goat fund. Hearing about a farm’s complete goat dispersal, he presented us with his life savings. A few days later our son was the proud owner of two bred nannies. One of their kids even earned Grand Champion at our county fair. Our son is still the goat wrangler. He still provides their daily care. While he’s yet to actually sell a goat, he’s learned valuable goal setting and responsibility skills.
From showing livestock to wagering the distance they can throw a square bale of hay, there are a lot of ways farm kids set goals and make them become a reality.
Farm kids just know stuff.
The process from bull to steer was a lesson our daughter taught her 3rd-grade class. Our son is the designated lamb puller when a ewe needs help. They both have the natural “animal sense” required to separate or herd cattle and sheep. Just like a lot of kids raised on the farm.
Beyond that, farm kids know the origin of their food. They know the value of work. They understand the fragility of life. They learn to find humor in most situations. They know how to make things work. Farm kids can adapt. They are resilient.
Just like the grown-up farmers.
Author: Kelly M. Thomas, Farmer, Farm Wife and Mom, Freelance Writer, Blogger