I grew up on a crop and cattle farm in Streator, IL. I was my dad’s helper. In the summer we baled hay, fixed fences, walked beans, painted, cared for pastures, mowed, disced fields and more. In the winter we had to feed the cattle by hand. I used to climb up into a concrete silo and pitch silage into a truck. Then the truckloads had to be emptied into troughs. The weather is irrelevant, animals need tending to no matter how cold or tired you are. There is always work on a farm. It never ends. There is also fun and learning.
As an employer, I am bummed more people don’t grow up on old-fashioned farms. There is much concern from business owners that we will not have the characteristics often farm life teaches in our up and coming work force. The younger generations seem to be more protected, coddled and lack the independence earlier youth enjoyed. These are characteristics farm life teaches and employers crave:
On the farm you have to make hay when the sun shines. Not all my siblings got this ethic, but several of us have it in spades. It has worked well for us in life.
The more you get done the better the farm produces. Plus in my situation my parents gave me tasks and once they were done then I could play. I learned to get things done fast.
I often had to mow very large fields of grass. One of these fields was about an hour tractor drive away. My mom often gave us a gallon jug of water with frozen ice to carry with us. On one particular drive to this field my tractor stopped an overheated. I had to use the jug of water to correct the situation. It did fine the rest of the day. I did knock on a neighbor’s door for water that day. They were not home, so I helped myself to their hose. It was a long, hot day of mowing. I was probably 15 years old at the time. On the farm, you are often on your own to figure things out.
I am shocked by the lack of independence I see in today’s youth. Maybe it is the structured play, parents scared to just let their kids go roam or parent’s plain just not teaching it. We certainly learned to figure anything out we could on the farm before asking for help. Some of this was extreme and I wouldn’t expect it today. Yet, I don’t want employees asking me for help on every little thing.
This is related to independence and problem solving. I don’t think anyone ever taught me how to saddle a horse. I remember around five years old when I attempted to put the saddle on for the first time on my little Shetland pony, Buck. I put it on, and then had to tie him up, as I had to be in the house by noon for lunch. When I came out again the saddle was hanging under his belly. Somehow I eventually figured it out. I’m not sure that is creative, but there is certainly creative problem solving on the farm.
Other traits I learned include: responsibility, money management, people management and time management.
Please teach our youth more of these traits. Unfortunately, I hear many stories of the inability of people to even show up for work, not showing up on time, having a parent call the boss, not giving notice when quitting a job, needing an usually high amount of attention and so forth.
What characteristics did your youth teach you?