Take Your Child to Work Day Is Every Day on a Farm
Take Your Child to Work Day, also known as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and Bring a Kid to Work Day, is internationally recognized on the fourth Thursday each April. The day provides children an opportunity to understand what their parents do and allows them to explore the workforce.
Numerous businesses, including Organic Valley, have hosted special events to give children a feel for what their parents do. It’s a valuable opportunity. However, farm children see what their parents do regularly because work and home are the same place — which has its benefits and obstacles.
Parents, you know how hard it can be to keep children occupied while working remotely if the kids are home. Let’s look at how it is on the farm.
Emily and Tim Zweber, Organic Valley farmers in Minnesota, have three children: Eric, age 15, Jonnie, 14, and Hannah, 11, who are homeschooled. The children see Mom and Dad at their job every day. It’s been this way since the children were babies.
“We were either carrying them around, they were crawling around or sitting next to us, and now they help out on the farm,” Emily said. “They are just exposed to it. Work is not a separate part of our lives. It’s what we do.”
Keeping the barn clean at the Zweber family farm.
Tim appreciates the useful knowledge and skills the kids learn on the farm — everything from science and observing natural systems to fixing equipment, he said. Another benefit of a farming lifestyle is being able to “hang out with them every day,” Tim said of the children.
Emily feels the same. “It’s beautiful they are with us all the time,” she said.
But, as many parents who worked from their homes in the last few years likely experienced, having the young ones nearby is also a challenge.
“You completely have to rethink your day-to-day,” Emily said. “You have to think about how work is going to disrupt naps or eating, or what to do if a child doesn’t feel good.” Safety is also always taken into consideration.
The Zweber family of Minnesota.
Dreaming of a Date in the Barn
Organic Valley farmers Joel and Katie Winnes also know the joys and challenges of running the farm while keeping the children content. Their four children range in age from 14 months to 9 years and the older children are also homeschooled.
Being home with the family all the time makes it especially important for Joel and Katie to spend quality time alone together, but their date nights look a little different than most.
“Our dream is to have a milking date,” Joel said.
Let’s explain a little about the family’s day-to-day life on the farm. The couple enjoys that April, Shane, Caleb and Natalie are often by their side, but it is a rare occasion they get the barn to themselves to milk the cows.
The youngest girl, Natalie, is often in a swing that’s in sight but safely set back in the milking parlor, and a playpen has also been part of the barn decor. Katie says the kids were always quite content in the playpen and often fell asleep (her theory is the rhythmic sound of the machine that takes the milk lulls them to sleep).
Watch an Organic Valley farmer milk cows and hear the sounds of milking machines in this video.
The other children help with tasks, do school work or explore their Wisconsin farm as Mom and Dad keep a watchful eye.
The Winnes family of Wisconsin.
No Pressure to Take Over the Farm
Most of the Winnes children are a little too young to know the adulthood path they’d like to take but at this moment, Caleb thinks he wants to drive big equipment or farm.
The Zwebers’ youngest child, Hannah, wants to be a veterinarian or ballerina; Eric would like to be in the computer engineering field; and Jonnie wants to live in a van, rock climb and be a photographer. The children do not want to be farmers. (Tim, a fourth-generation farmer, didn’t want to be a farmer when he was a child.)
The Winnes and Zweber children are given plenty of opportunities for non-farm activities. The Zweber children are involved in 4-H, church activities and sports. The Winnes children are involved with community events, church and will soon start swimming lessons. Both families take time for vacations, too.
“For us it’s important to get away from the farm and recharge and come back to the farm. It’s best for our family,” Emily said.
Emily and Tim don’t want the children to be farmers if they have no interest.
“We’ve always said this is our thing, not yours. If you want to join us, that’s great,” Emily said. “Your life is your life. The worse thing is if they feel obligated to come back to the farm.”
The Zweber family today.
So, What Do Farmers Do?
Whether or not the kids become farmers as adults, they are part of the small organic family farms that are caring for animals, producing the milk you enjoy and leaving the land better for the future. Organic Valley is committed to providing farmers a sustainable pay price. It's always been that way.
How would these families explain what a farmer does for those who don’t see it firsthand?
Farmers are stewards of the land and ensure the cows are healthy and content, Katie said.
“We are not just taking from the land that God has given us, but giving it what it needs so we can have healthy, good food to eat,” she said.
Emily’s description is similar.
“We care for the land and animals that produce milk for us. That’s the very short of it,” she said.
Here’s how 11-year-old Hannah sums up the life of a farmer.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s really fun because you have a lot of space to run around and explore; there are hills and sledding in the winter, there are a lot of animals,” she said. “I show chickens at the fair, and I like to play with them. In the winter we feed them (the cows), make sure they have water, make sure they have clean bedding and in the summer there is haying and making sure they have food for the winter. We kind of have a lot of things going on in summer; it’s chill in the winter.”
Whether you work on a farm, at a desk, in a factory, do construction or share your artistic talents with the world, your knowledge is invaluable to the little ones who look up to you. We raise our milk glasses to all the caretakers out there working for a better future.
An antique typewriter fanatic and chicken mom who treasures time outdoors admiring all that nature has to offer, Jennifer McBride is Rootstock’s editor. McBride spent 15-plus years as a journalist and newspaper editor before finding her niche with the nation’s leading organic dairy cooperative. Contact her at Rootstock@organicvalley.com.
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