People are used to seeing us spend most of our time running after our kids: Sylvia, 3; and Willem, 1. At this age, all you are doing is damage control, especially with the boy, stopping them from doing things like running in the street and destroying property. So, when people learn that we farm produce besides my day job, the usual reaction is “How do you do it?” We wonder this ourselves sometimes too, but, really, it comes down to some serious time management.
One thing we’ve learned is that we have to specialize our labor. We’ve tried working at the same time, hoping that the kids will just stick around, but it typically ends up a disaster. Something like digging potatoes or picking weeds holds a kid’s attention an average of 1-2 minutes; after that, they move onto bigger and better things. So, when we try this, one of us is always chasing after kids and we end up arguing over whose turn it is to catch them before they get hurt or trample a whole crop. Now we trade off a lot. One watches the kids and the other concentrates on farm work. Yesterday I took the kids for a 2-hour bike ride to the lake and Mar did some serious bean picking.
The great part of farming with children is watching them grow up with the farm. Sylvia knew the word “kohlrabi” at a very young age and Will THINKS he’s ready to drive a tractor. I read an article recently by an author named Gene Logsdon in Farming magazine about all the toys farm kids enjoy that you can’t buy in stores: everything from ponds to rocks and bugs. It made me think about the kids’ favorite toy of late: corn. For the past couple of weeks they keep asking us to go ‘play corn’ where they run up and down the corn rows screaming and trying to surprise one another and me. It’s pretty cool that we have four corn patches, so when they get bored with one area, they can move onto another. For me, as a parent, I just love it and I often think about the memories we make for our children. I have great memories of gardening at our plot near the sugar plant in East Grand Forks, wondering off looking for fox along the rail lines or harvesting corn with my family up by Warren, MN. And I grow concerned for those who will only have memories of Playstation, TV, and chatrooms…I’m concerned for their person and I’m concerned for a world where we have no real connection to land and family and community.