Dairy Farming Mamas: How to raise your kids to be leaders in a world of followers

Heather Moore for Progressive Dairyman Published on 10 July 2017
boy leading calf

Big things are happening at the small rural school that our kids attend. With under 150 children in grades preschool to eight, the school has dedicated itself to teaching its students life skills, utilizing the “Leader in Me” program, based on the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I love visiting the school and watching even the youngest students be empowered to unlock their leadership skills. My favorite part of the kids learning the leadership skills is watching them come home and apply them to the farm – a great place to hone life skills and leadership skills!

1. Be proactive: Farm kids learn about being proactive in so many ways. My favorite sign of being proactive is when the kids come outside first thing in the morning and ask for the bucket to measure milk replacer. Farm kids grow up to be responsible and take initiative.

2. Begin with the end in mind: The county fair is a perfect example of the second habit. Taking a baby calf from the hut and turning it into a prize-winning heifer or cow is no small feat. It takes a lot of goal setting and hard work.

3. First things first: Learning how to prioritize tasks is such an important lesson on a farm. Learning how to set a schedule and follow a plan are incredibly important parts of running a farm. Farm kids learn how to be disciplined and organized through everyday chores.

4. Think win-win: Learning how to find positives for all parties involved in a decision is crucial to any successful farm or business. I see my kids working on this skill as they work together – one brother offers to help fill water buckets if the other brother will fill the feed buckets.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Working alongside family members and others on the farm is a great place to learn this lesson – how many arguments and heated discussions and hurt feelings could be avoided if we practiced this in the barnyard? Working together on the farm is a great way to learn effective communication skills and interpersonal skills.

6. Synergize: “Mommy! Synergize means we work together!” Solving problems and working together is the backbone of a successful farm. Giving farm kids tasks to solve together can help them work together and value each other’s strengths and differences.

7. Sharpen the saw: The last habit of the highly effective person is one that we, as farm parents, need to take special care that we model for our children. “Sharpening the saw” means taking care of ourselves outside the farm – eating right, getting enough sleep, taking time out for family and friends. Every time we take time out of our busy schedule to go to a parade, share a meal or even just take a break, we can teach our future leaders how to care of themselves.

It comes as no surprise to those of us involved in agriculture that our tiny farmers are future community leaders, but often we don’t think that those tiny rubber boots are filled with future CEOs, politicians and leaders on a global scale. Farm life is not only a great place to grow up, but it is also a great place to sharpen leadership skills to lead to future success – on and off the farm.  end mark

Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.

PHOTO: One of the lessons in leadership is to "begin with the end in mind," like breaking a calf to lead and growing it into a prize-winning show animal. Photo provided by Heather Moore.

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