For some of us – those who dwell in the city and the suburbs – thinking about life on a farm comes with bucolic images of sunny days, lush fields, and happy animals. But contrary to that idealized vision, as any farmer will tell you, life on today’s farm is far more nuanced and complicated than most outsiders can imagine. Farm work is unrelenting; there are no spring breaks, Christmas vacations, or bank holidays. Farm families work together – 365 days a year – to bring us the food we eat at prices we can afford.
Life on any farm is full of challenges, big and small. It is subject to the vagaries of the weather and economic markets. Farmers struggle every day to tend to their land and their animals. They are up with the sun and work well into the night.
In spite of obstacles and daily struggles, most farm families cannot imagine any other way of life. They cherish the fields they work and the animals they care for. Farmers live as stewards of the land they love and the traditions they hold dear. In addition to the challenges, life on a farm is full of wonder, full of beauty and full of love.
Beth Kennett, of Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, Vermont, raised her children on their family dairy farm. Her grandchildren are also part of this extended farm family. When asked what lessons her children learned on their farm, she replied simply: “These are the lessons that last a lifetime – share the love, have faith, and work with each other.”
Here are five more lessons children can learn from life on the farm:
Be Kind to Animals
– Animals play an important part of a farm’s success, and they are the responsibility of everyone who lives on the farm. Caring for farm animals is a job that even the youngest member of the farm family can help with, whether it’s feeding the chickens or mucking the barn. On or off the farm, taking care of animals is one of life’s great lessons. Animals can also teach farm children, and our own children, about the “circle of life.” Taking responsibility for a new kitten or a sick, aging dog can help children understand life’s happiest and saddest moments.
Eat Close to Home
– Many farm families depend on what they grow as their major food source. While most families can’t grow all their food, a small kitchen garden is a great way to get kids to think about what it takes to produce the food they eat. Taking your children with you to shop at farmers markets, which are proliferating around the country, is a fun and instructive way for them to meet farmers and know exactly where their food comes from. Joining a local CSA and visiting the farm that grows your food is a wonderful way to introduce your children to the concept of eating locally.
You Have to Keep mOOOving!
– Exercise comes easy on the farm, with chores from dawn to dusk. There’s no need for a gym when there’s hay to bale, animals to feed, and crops to care for. Make sure your own children learn to incorporate lots of physical activity and movement into their days, with both work and play. Remind them to step away from the computer screen and get a game of basketball going. Assign your children physical chores like mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, or vacuuming. Make exercise a family affair with bike trips, hiking, or even an after-dinner walk.
Help Others and They’ll Help You
– It takes a lot of people working together to run a successful farm. The farm family is a working unit that depends on each member for success. Children can learn from an early age that family members and friends depend on each other – in good times and bad. Everyone in the family should have chores that make their household run more smoothly. Helping others can be a family affair when you volunteer together at your local food bank or go together as a family to work at the local animal shelter.
Be a Multi-Tasker
Today’s farmer has to wear many hats. He or she has to be a veterinarian, an engineer, a mechanic, a horticulturist, a salesperson, a meteorologist, a geneticist, a parent, a volunteer and so much more. The more informed and educated a farmer is, the more successful the farm. You can encourage your child to be passionate and inquisitive about many different subjects. It will serve her well no matter what path she chooses.
Candace Karu is the Lifestyle Commentator and Favorite Foodie for Cabot Creamery, a dairy cooperative of 1200 farm family owners in New York and New England, makers of The World’s Best Cheddar. For more information, visit the Cabot website at cabotcheese.coop.
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The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.