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HERd Management: To farm or not to farm? The question we’re asking our kids

Amy Engberson for Progressive Dairyman Published on 29 June 2018

When my husband and I decided to come back to his family’s farm, we sure didn’t come back for the money or the cushy hours. We chose farming as an occupation because we knew we wanted to raise our family on a farm.

It’s simply the best way to raise kids … at least that’s what our 21-year-old selves thought.

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Now our kids are old enough to start seriously thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. Our oldest will be a senior in high school next year, and with that comes all the college fairs, campus visits and the time to start narrowing down his career path.

Once our kids were old enough to understand what we were talking about, we told them they had to have a bachelor’s degree before we would allow them to come back to the farm. We also explained coming back to the farm might not be an option.

Farming is so volatile these days we’re pretty much just living from one year to the next and hoping we can hang in there. Some days make us think there is a bright future in dairy farming – other days not so much. We just can’t promise our children an opportunity to farm. Not now, anyway.

Some days, I’m not even sure I want farming to be an option for them. Sometimes I want to tell them all to run like the wind and never look back. I want them to go find a “normal” job and enjoy the weekends. I want them to be home at 6 p.m. so they can spend time with their families.

I want them to not have to worry about the milk market. I just want them to know when they will get paid and how much. Sometimes I want what could be considered a better life for them.

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Then I stop and reflect on the “why.” Why did we come back to the farm? We weren’t scared of the hard work, the stress, the lack of days off or the sleepless nights. We just wanted to be able to spend quality time working together as a family.

There are plenty of days when I ask myself if we would be able to spend more time together as a family if we weren’t farming. I mean we’d have evenings together, weekends together (how amazing would that be?), and we’d have vacation time. We do spend lots of time together, working on the farm, and we love it.

Sometimes, though, I wish we could have a Saturday off to clean the garage, do yard work together or go out to dinner. You know – to do personal things. When you have a farm, you don’t take time off unless you have a real reason. Reasons like attending a wedding or a funeral, not to clean the garage.

No doubt there are those days when we log enough working hours I’m confident we could make more money if my husband and I found jobs working in the fast-food industry. Can you even imagine how much less stress would be involved with that kind of job?

The long hours working for less than minimum wage is a great reason to encourage my kids to a career far away from farming. Then I remember my why. We came back to the farm because we knew how good it is for kids, and I can’t help but think of my future grandkids. I just can’t imagine them growing up in a subdivision and not being able to go to work with their dad during the day.

I can hardly bring myself to let them miss out on all the opportunities and lessons you just can’t learn anywhere besides on a farm. I want those little grandkids to drive tractors, feed baby calves and swim in the canal. I want them to spend time outside and enjoy working hard. I don’t want them to have a spare minute to waste on video games and wandering aimlessly around the town.

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That’s when my heartstrings tug at me and make me think all the crazy long hours, roller coaster milk prices and being attached at the hip to this farm is all worth it in the end. My kids have thrown a fit when their dad left them home since they were old enough to know they were being left.

They love farming. What do they say? You can take the boy from the farm, but you can’t take farming from the boy.

So what do you do? Encourage them to farm or not to farm? When the dust settles at the end of the day, I think farming is all worth it … I think. Please don’t tell my kids, though, because I’m sticking to my bachelor’s degree policy for now.  end mark

Learn more about Engberson’s dairy and find recipes at Little Dairy on the Prairie.

Amy Engberson
  • Amy Engberson

  • Dairy Producer
  • Monteview, Idaho
  • Email Amy Engberson

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