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Country kids learn life lessons on the ranch; let the kids work!

"What's the most important lesson you learned as a kid on the ranch?" That's what I asked a group of kids, ages 2-10, during a book reading last weekend at the South Dakota Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher Conference held in Spearfish, SD. Doing what's right is the cowboy way of life, and that's one of the many lessons I seek to impart in my children's book, “Levi’s Lost Calf.”

When I asked this question, I was impressed with the responses received.

“My grandpa always told me to sit up tall in the saddle,” said one little girl.

“I’ve learned the animals always come first, no matter what,” said another.

“I like riding my horses and helping Dad chase cows,” added the oldest boy in the group.

“My mom’s garden is my favorite. I love all the yummy food,” remarked another.

Think of all the responsibilities your parents gave you growing up on the ranch. Do you remember the first time they let you ride a horse? Or, perhaps it was a big deal when they left home for the weekend and left you in charge of chores. Do you remember driving a tractor for the first time?

These small tasks helped develop the important values and lessons that make farm and ranch kids the salt of the earth. I've read that farm kids are an employer’s top pick when choosing a new hire, as they know how to work hard and get the job done. After all, it’s just the cowboy way.

Many of you are familiar with the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed child labor law rules. Now, a video featuring farm girl Courtney DeHoff explains how these newly proposed regulations could impact the way of life for many agriculture families.

On the Horizon: Child labor laws – We’re talking about a way of life
from Alisa Hines on Vimeo.

Watch the video here. How would the proposed rule on child labor impact your family and operation? What lessons did you learn as a kid growing up? Do you believe this rule protects kids or deprives them of important life lessons? Weigh in today!

Discuss this Blog Entry 11

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 18, 2012

I grew up on a farming operation in SW Minnesota and I would not trade that for anything. Working with my grandpa, dad, and sister all of those years growing up taught me a lot not only about the work in general but a strong bond that grew between us family members. Whether it was working cows, going to cattle shows, making hay, planting or harvesting crops, we all did what we needed to do. My sister and I never got "paid" in a monetary form, but we always had a house to live in, food on the table, clothes on our back, the pickup to drive to town for school and our extra-circular events, and a car to drive when we went off to college, but most importantly we had a family that stands beside us and supports us in anything we did or want to do.

Do I feel that they "owe" me something or that I was used for "child labor"? ABSOLUTELY NOT! The lessons of hard work, dedication, determination, the feeling of a job well done... and the list goes on are attributes that have shaped me into the person I am today and now I use those attributes not only on our farm/ranch but also at my "town" job (a different protein industry) and I know that they appreciate it.

Don't let these people in Washington decide what child labor on a farm is because they have NO IDEA what they are talking about.

on Jan 18, 2012

Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you had a similar upbringing that I did. My grandpa gifted me a replacement heifer when I was 5, but in order to "earn" the calf, I had to feed this bottle calf for me. He made it clear that it was my responsibility, and I firmly believe it's because of that lesson learned at a young age, that helped me grow into the person I am today.

By the way, my husband is from SW MN. What town are you from? Tyler grew up in Minnesota Lake, close to Blue Earth and 20 miles from Mankato. Maybe you were neighbors! :)

How will proposed changes to child labor in agriculture regulations affect farms? A new ZimmPoll at AgWired asks this question. You can vote on it here: http://agwired.com/#pd_a_5852740

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 18, 2012

My Favorite Animal

Our teacher asked what my favorite animal was, and I said, "Fried chicken."
She said I wasn't funny, but she couldn't have been right, because everyone else laughed.
My parents told me to always tell the truth. I did. Fried chicken is my favorite animal.
I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA.
He said they love animals very much.
I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef. Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal's office.
I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.

The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was.
I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, so I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken.

She sent me back to the principal's office. He laughed, and told me not to do it again.

I don't understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn't like it when I am.

Today, my teacher asked me to tell her what famous person I admired most. I told her, "Colonel Sanders."
Guess where I am now...

on Jan 18, 2012

Ha! Love it! (We should recreate the joke with beef references though!)

Rhonda (not verified)
on Jan 18, 2012

This is another government screw up! They need to focus on fixing what they've screwed up and leave the farming to the farmers! Kids need daily responsibilities, they need to learn life lessons early on, they need to have genuine self esteem, they need to know that they are capable of working hard and accomplishing many tasks. My kids (ages 17, 15, 6) all own their own livestock, they pay their own bills, feed, medicate, doctor, and cleanup after their animals (beef, meat goats, sheep, and hogs). We have the typical farm family life, we help each other out, communicate with each other, care for each other. They also do well in school and are very involved in 4H.

on Jan 19, 2012

Thanks for your testimony, Rhonda. On Facebook, one woman accused me of not being sympathetic to the tragic deaths of farm kids across the country. I lost a good friend who fell in a PTO last year, and his death impacted his family, his friends and the surrounding community. These accidents can be avoided though, if we practice farm safety guidelines. Growing up, I attended the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids events, and it reminded me to take the extra minute to be safe instead of getting in a hurry.

We need to educate our kids to be safe on the farm, not take away their right to be a part of a family tradition.

Theresa F. Carpenter (not verified)
on Jan 19, 2012

I can't believe the DOL is trying to do this. Obviously, they were not blessed to have a farm/ranch upbringing and don't realize the importance. I dare say that the vast majority of kids who are raised knowing how to work and those with responsibilities that comes with being raised in an agricultural setting, are more productive adults and have much fewer criminal records. Speaking for myself, I'm sure I could have been a lazy human being, but my dad saw to it that my siblings and I started work at a very early age, with major responsibilities, feeding cattle and horses and working on the farm. I may have missed some high school activities, but I learned what it takes to make a living and where my food comes from. My children and grandchildren do also. I am a better person for having this upbringing. I am sad for those who don't. Most of my best childhood memories are directly related to working on our place. I believe we will see a time, or at least our children will, when a person who knows how to work and raise things with our hands, will be among the most valuable workers in the world! Our way of life has been taken for granted by the rest of America.

on Jan 19, 2012

Well said, Theresa. I completely agree that I'm the person I am today because my parents insisted on giving us real chores. I never understood my town friends who said they had chores to do -- clean their room, load the dishwasher, etc. That was the stuff we did AFTER feeding cows, fixing fence and more!

buywowgoldeip (not verified)
on Jan 19, 2012

The following time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to learn, but I really thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you could possibly repair if you happen to werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

Carol Cowan (not verified)
on Jan 20, 2012

I appreciate this video! My husband and I were both raised on farms in Oklahoma. We married, had 4 children, and raised them with the same work ethics that we were raised. Everyone in town knew our kids were some of the hardest working kids around, and thought very highly of that. After highschool, when our son went to college, he called about a job opening to help a farmer. Even though our son didn't need a job for financial reasons, he just wanted to 'do something' with his extra time. The farmer hired him over the phone, without even meeting him, simply because he had a farming background. The same goes for our three daughters, they are hired for outside work because people know they will work, and do a good job. All this comes from the lifestyle they grew up with, working long hours, getting dirty, running machinery, raising animals, and appreciating the land and the concept of a farming/ranching family. I would hate to think our grandchildren couldn't be allowed to enjoy this same type of up-bringing!

Mathena (not verified)
on May 3, 2012

When a city kid turns 16 they can go work at Micky.D's, but a farm kid can't work on their own farm?
What a bunch of bull snot!

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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