From the beginning of time, children have been helping their parents on the farm. Cain and Abel learned to cultivate crops and herd animals from Adam. Your children will learn to farm, or not, from you. Too many farm parents have the attitude that until the kids can be a real help, they can’t be out there. And because I’m curious and farm kids are a passion of mine, I often ask, “What age do you think that will be?” The answers don’t vary much. Usually between age 12 and 14. As if that is the magic age when kids will take an interest in the farm. I have bad news. Your kids love or hate relationship with the farm is already made by age 12. The wonder, the joy, the passion, and the dreams start much earlier than that.
Small children have a fascination with anything that their parents do. Pre-teens and teenagers are distancing themselves from their parents. Small children long to be helpful. They will try to help with every task. Many teenagers (not all, thankfully) are trying to get out of work.
In order to build a next generation on our farms, we must involve children from an early age. Get them a set of their own tools, a kid-sized shovel or rake, a small wheelbarrow, kid-sized buckets, their own coveralls, their own lunch cooler to take in the tractor while riding in the buddy seat…all ways kids can be involved. Talk to your children as you work. Explain what you are doing. They’re listening! And they will repeat it to their younger siblings or the dog. Encourage their effort. At first, it IS more work to have them along. But kids learn quickly and practice makes performance. And pretty soon they are working with you and it is actual HELP! Asking them to do jobs they have done with you on their own…boy, there really isn’t a better boost to their little self-confidences than that!
If we start working with our kids early, they will work with us late. And they will work hard, become invested in the farm, bring their passion and inspiration to the table. And they will love the farm just as much as, or maybe more than, we do. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?
Day 15 Homework: What can you do, right now, to involve your kids (or someone else’s) on your farm?