As a first generation dairy farmer with no agriculture experience prior to marriage, I often find that I have a different perspective than many other farmers. Lately I have found that many are steering their children away from the family farm. Encouraging them to pursue other avenues of employment as adults. While I understand it, it breaks my heart.
You see, this dairy life is not something I would have ever imagined being part of. In fact, when I met my husband, I had imagined a much different life as I had no concept of what went into farming. To say I was naïve would be the understatement of the century.
In the past almost five years, I quickly came to realize that farming is tough. Not only is it tough but it is emotionally & physically draining. However, as tough as it can be, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Just when I think there isn’t much more that I can take; a new calf is born, one of our girls gives me loves, someone compliments our operation, someone I love says they are proud of me, etc. Something that seems so small to others somehow makes it all worth it.
I couldn’t imagine raising my children any other way. Here are a couple of examples as to why:
We work together as a family. Our children see their mom and dad working together as a team. Everyone helps out, everyone is important and everyone enjoys helping each other. I know you are wondering how my kids that are so young could possible be part of helping out on our operation. It is the simple things like turning the barn lights on/off, carrying empty calf buckets, turning on the water faucet, etc. They love to help and be recognized for their “hard” work.
The kids get to be kids. I often hear people say that children raised on a farm get no childhood. I couldn’t disagree with that more. Every day my children are out doing what they do best, just being kids. They have a play house, gator and dump trucks. When the toys get boring, they have the commodity piles (grain piles), shavings pile, hay bales, calves, calf stalls, etc. All these things with a little imagination turn into adventures. There is no shortage of adventures on our farm. There is no need for video games & television is not part of their daily routine.
Work ethic. There is no shortage of work ethic on our farm. Although the kids are still young and help with the little things, I am sure as they get older their chores will change as well. With age comes more responsibility. With more responsibility comes more reward. Our children will grow up knowing that they are not owed anything in life that they do not work for. They will have chores, be paid accordingly, have savings accounts, etc. As they grow up, they will be taught work ethic… something that is terribly lacking in this country.
So why would parents possibly want their children to do anything else? As more people step away from the farm, the understanding of agriculture decreases in the general population. Lately, fear and lack of farming knowledge is driving consumers to demand more regulations and ban tools farmers use on their operations. Farmers are under constant scrutiny, increased regulations and farming, which once was a respected occupation is now looked down upon if their farming practices do not meet a certain criteria.
So you are probably wondering with all of this, why would I still want my children to take over our farming operation. You see, we love what we do. We are proud of what we do and at the end of the day we know what we did matters. We play a small part in a bigger picture. We are part of the 1-2% of the American farmers feeding this growing population. It is not about fame or fortune, it is about knowing that we worked hard and gave it our all. We have at least 11 years until our children are considered “adults”. Our daughter right now wants to become a veterinarian. Somehow I do believe that will change a million times in the next 11 years, but whatever her final career choice is, we will support her 150%. Our oldest son wants to farm just like dad, he even wants his little brother to farm with them. While they are only four and two, nothing would make my husband and I happier. Regardless of what any of our children want to do, we will support them.
With all that said; every family is unique in their own way, every farm has different challenges and every parent has their reasons. But I can honestly say that if my children want to farm, if there is a farm for them to take over, I would be their biggest fan. I would never discourage them because it would be hard. I would never discourage them because money is tight. I would never discourage them because there is a chance that they might fail. I would encourage them to follow their dreams, work hard and be proud to be the next generation of dairy farmers on our farm.