When I married a 5th generation Maine farmer over a decade ago, I never imagined that part of the bargain was raising farm kids. I knew that part of the package was the lifestyle. It meant joining with a man who is steady and true, the hardest worker I’ve ever met. But it also meant summers filled with long days in the hot sun bailing hay and winters of rising before the sun to shovel poop and lug water.
What I could never have imagined was how farming would impact every aspect of my life including the type of children I am raising.
For the most part, I am grateful to be raising farm kids. My girls are connected to the land and animals and tradition in a way most other children are not.
It is a lifestyle that instills hard work and resilience. It is a lifestyle that many people admire and aspire to, but it is far from perfect or easy. And I can’t help but wonder some days exactly WHAT I signed up for. The benefits of raising your children on a farm abound. As is written in this blog post by Ruralonly.com these include developing confidence, compassion, and work ethic.
Beyond that farm kids develop a more complete understanding of the world.
Your Children Will Understand Work
There are no days off. Animals need to eat and drink — even on Sunday and Christmas, and when you have the flu. We plan our whole lives around the chores. There are many days when I want to spend the day in bed with my husband and take long vacations, but that’s not part of the package and somehow it works out in the trade-off.
Your kids Will Tell Their Friends Where Meat Comes From
We don’t sugarcoat the realities of raising your own food. Our policy is one of age-appropriate honesty. We talk to our kids about how we show the animals respect and care for them and in turn they care for us by providing food. On the one hand, your children will have a complete understanding of where food comes from. On the other, their friends might be scarred.
They Will Understand Life, Death, and Business
They will know about giving birth and they will understand death. We had a calf die at 8 days last summer. There was no warning and nothing we could do. It was hard for our girls to understand; a tough lesson in the unfairness of life. We also talked about the financial aspect of it. Losing an animal hurts the farm in many ways and in order to thrive farmers also have to be businessmen and women.
Sex and Reproduction Are Not Mysteries
My six-year-old was standing about a foot from the fence when the bull decided to romance one of our heifers. Farming with kids means that when she asked, “Wah, Wah is happening?” I embraced the opportunity to answer her questions in a scientific and age-appropriate manner. The girls knew already what it meant for the cows to be in heat and the bull incident lead to talk about how babies are made. We discussed how babies get made from the DNA of both parents and how this was the bull’s way of sharing his DNA.
Farm Kids Understand GRIT.
Every day on the farm presents new challenges. Farm-raised kids get to practice problem-solving in everyday life. Farming takes teamwork and muscle building. Giving up is not an option. If the water bucket is too heavy the cows don’t drink. So it can’t be too heavy. We focus on problem solving and working together to do the hard things. Quitting is not an option. Don’t believe me? Check out this post about Airial’s little equestrians!
Your Children Will Understand Equality
When they are in the barn farm-kids are doing what needs to be done, plain and simple. Chores know no gender. Getting stepped on by a thousand pound cow will encourage both boy and girl to be strong, just as sitting up all night nursing a newborn calf will teach anyone to be nurturing. When they are free from any expectation beyond working hard, children move beyond societal limitations.