I Was a Teenage Farm Worker


People love to talk about ‘change.’ It’s understandable, because many things have changed over the years. Probably one of the most easily recognizable is technology. I now e-mail, tweet, post to Facebook, blog, watch video, check markets, navigate through cities. find restaurants, gas stations and a lot more on my ‘smartphone.’

Sometimes I even make a phone call.

Modern agriculture has changed dramatically too. The amazing advances in technology make it the most efficient, productive and environmentally sound food, fiber and fuel producing system in the world.

But a couple of things about agriculture have never changed and the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t understand it. That’s why we now have what could be the most misguided proposal for the over-regulation of agriculture we’ve ever seen. You see, the federal government wants to basically keep kids from helping, or working on the farm. In the real world, that’s absurd on so many levels.

But Washington D.C. bureaucracy is not the real world.

Apparently the Labor Department doesn’t think youth under 16 can be around cattle, operate a lawnmower or tractor, milk a cow or cut weeds. Those are just a few of the restrictions the new proposal would implement. In other words, many things I did growing up on our family farm, and all others before and after me, would be illegal.

I was starting to drive a tractor, ‘driving’ a pickup in a pasture to fix fence, riding horses to move cattle and feeding cattle when I was nine years old. Could some of this be dangerous? I suppose so. But does the government actually believe that my parents wanted me injured or killed? Just as Missouri hog farmer Chris Chinn told Congress, she, and I, were hurt more often and much worse at school that home on the farm.

You see, the farm is the perfect place and opportunity for parents to teach common-sense safety rules and precautions, the responsibility of handling expensive equipment and the values of work. That work ethic and other skills and values I learned on the farm have served me very well as an adult in my employment, relationships, finances and more.

We don’t need to keep kids from working on the farm, we need to get more out there. I remember my city friends at school who came to see me on the farm, and some worked during the summer. Their parents knew it was good for them to learn the responsibilities of taking care of animals, the value of equipment, the importance of a work ethic. these kids were better adults because of their time on the farm.

If you grew up or work on a farm and you agree with me, lend your voice.

Much of Washington, D.C. doesn’t ‘get’ the value of rural living. we must teach them through our action, or lose a heritage that will hurt everyone.


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