We're not raising corn
As a small child, I spent a lot of time with my Great-Uncle Tom Barr. He, along with my grandfather, started our farm in the 1940s. As anyone who knew me at that age can attest, I asked A LOT of questions. He was always patient and answered my questions to the best of his ability.
As with most five-year-old kids, many of the answers and lessons were short and to the point and quickly forgotten, but one particular stuck with me ever since.
"What is the most important thing the farm raises?" I asked? "Boys," he said. "We're not raising corn, we're raising boys."
It was only years later that I was fully able to appreciate his answer. As a child of the farm and a parent of two boys myself, I fully appreciate what type of childhood farm life can provide and what a blessing this lifestyle is.
Dad's making us work again
I was teaching my youngest son to operate some equipment recently. It took longer to finish the job because we had to go slower and I had to stop for instruction occasionally. On top of that, I had to stop and get him ready to go farm. We had to pack snacks and get old clothes on. To be honest, it would have likely been easier to just do it myself.
There is also the matter of the enthusiasm of the help. They don't outright complain, but you can tell that some days they're less than stoked about leaving the house for farm work. It's one of life's great mysteries why kids are wildly enthusiastic about helping right up until the age when they're big enough to do so!
The relationship between work and my kids is one that's been playing out on this farm for years with generations of kids. I remember several occasions as a kid when my brother and I were being conscripted into some manual labor by my dad and were also less than enthused about it.
Looking back now, I realize that some of those jobs were likely not much easer with us there, but that really wasn't the point. I don't know if Tom and dad ever had a conversation about work ethic or self-motivation, but I feel confident that he helped teach those lessons to dad either way.
There were 11 kids in my dad's family. Most of them are not farmers, but that doesn't mean that their time on the farm wasn't valuable. Some of his siblings went into the agriculture field working for John Deere. They aren't farmers, but their careers would have been unlikely without their time on the farm.
Some of his siblings went on to be educators. No doubt they integrated some of the life lessons they learned on the farm into their curriculum.
A few of his siblings learned that manual labor wasn't something they wanted to do forever if they could help it, which was a good lesson itself. A taste of physical labor and dirty jobs was good motivation when they went on to be bankers and engineers.
If you love something set it free
Sometimes kids do learn that farming is something they want to do, and sometimes it takes some perspective to figure that out. When I left for college there were no plans concerning my future on the farm and that was by design.
While he didn't necessarily push me away from the farm, dad was insistent that I head to college and find out for myself what wanted to do with my life.
While I helped out on weekends from time to time, I was basically out of the day to day operation of the farm from the time I left for college in 2001 until I decided to return home in 2006. I missed it. I missed small towns and work that I could stand back and admire when it was done.
I was fortunate to find a life partner that was willing to make the leap back to the farm with me and help me teach our kids the same lessons that have been learned here for generations. She moved to the farm despite not knowing anyone in this area aside from myself. It was a leap of faith on her part and I am forever grateful to her for that.
I don't know if either of my kids will want to farm when they get older, and right now it doesn't matter. Whatever they do with their lives will be impacted by the time they spend here. In fact, If the farm doesn't make a single dollar of profit this year, I'll rest easy knowing that we're still raising a bumper crop.