How Young is Too Young When Working on the Family Farm?

December 5, 2016 09:32 AM

Well, I’m not sure if John just wanted part of the week off for his birthday or what, but he punted this week's Customer Support to me, so I’m switching hats just for this week, from host to commentator, to share my opinion.

We received this  email of concern from a viewer and honestly, John thought it would be best if I answer becuase I’m the one who decided to air it.

Jeanne of Alton, Iowa says: "I’m writing this note due to a concern I have about some photos which were shared on Sunday, November 20th's broadcast. There were some viewer photos that indicated an 8-year-old was driving the tractor pulling a grain car alongside his father combining. I am a farm wife and nurse practitioner and have a concern about any child younger than 12 driving that type of equipment. The reaction time and abstract thinking skills are not developed at that age. I don't appreciate the assumed acceptance of this practice. Please consider this in the future when sharing viewer photos.”

While I appreciate your concern and safety should be the top priority on farms across this great country, I honestly didn't think twice about airing it. We aired a similar picture earlier this fall, and it was a family I personally know.

I didn't think twice about airing the picture because I viewed it as refreshing that young kids are putting in such hard work.

But the bottom line is, it's ultimately their parents' decisions on what they let their kids do on the farm.

In two short years, I’ve quickly learned being a parent is the most difficult job out there because someone is always going to view whatever you're doing as wrong. You know your decisions and how you raise your child will have lifelong impacts, so you just pray the decisions you make will help mold your children into capable and driven individuals who will actually add to society. 

That's why we applaud all those Moms out there encouraging their kids to work at such a young age. Granted, maybe driving a large piece of equipment is viewed as excessive in some people's eyes, but whether it's picking up rocks in the field, or helping with bigger tasks, those are life lessons that are becoming more and more rare.

I constantly hear complaints both in and outside of ag about millennials and how it's a generation that doesn't want to work, has a hard time thinking on their own and are just plain lazy. While this is a huge generalization, some argue it's because of how the millennial generation, or my generation, is being raised.

I applaud the fact that these kids want to work. While plenty of youth are sitting inside playing hours upon hours of video games or glued to YouTube videos, we have farm kids who not only are willing to work, but want to do so.

So, driving a combine or tractor at such a young age, is it right or wrong and by showing it am I promoting it? I don't have the answer. But I believe the work you let your kids do on the farm and how you parent is up to you. 

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Spell Check

Nathan johnsonn
Boise city, OK
12/5/2016 09:34 PM

  I am 33 yrs old I started driving by myself when I was 8 yrs and haven't been off farm equipment since. My son is 2 yrs old and logged almost as many hours on the combine this yr as me. The last circle of corn I harvested I pulled up to the end of the field to park for the evening and my son crawled up in my lap as soon as the grain cart pulled up beside and folded the auger out just like he had watched me do a 1000s times this fall. He knew exactly what do if they are interested they learn by experience. My son will be driving before I was I will guarantee it

Saint Ansgar, IA
12/5/2016 08:13 PM

  I'm a single Father of 3 kids and I let them drive tractor at 5 and 6 years old. We have a livestock farm and the kids have hauled many loads of silage and hay for me. Never on the road, always through the field. I have always kept a couple hand clutch John Deere's around the farm for the kids to drive. We work together and we play together. I never miss a school program.

Huntertown, IN
12/5/2016 09:35 PM

  I don't think you're promoting it. I believe it is a culture shock for some folks to see an independent, knowledgeable, and mature for his age kid running a piece of equipment when other kids his age are still watching Dora or whatever 8 year olds are watching these days. I remember working ground in first grade. It just depends on the parents and the kid.


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