Last Child on the Farm
Whenever I pass a freshly plowed field it gives me the same thrill as an unopened book. Full of potential, surprise, pleasure. And just like that book that beckons me to peek beneath its cover, the sight of that rich, dark earth beckons me to curl my feet into the freshly tilled layers.
As a child, I lived on a dairy and had a childhood surrounded with animals—cows, dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional jack-rabbit my father found orphaned when cutting alfalfa.
Fresh, clean air and the farm provided a plentiful playground. I scampered through alfalfa fields and hay barns. I cuddled newborn kittens with their eyes still sealed shut. There was no more peaceful place on the planet than lying on a bale of freshly bound hay, inhaling its heady aroma, while staring out at a sky so blue it made my eyes squint.
One of my favorite places was the peach orchard in the dead of summer. I remember that first peach of the season. How my fingers sunk into the soft flesh when I plucked it from the branch. With that first bite, peach juice made race tracks down my arm. Nothing
ever tasted as good. Like a slice of heaven to my taste buds.
At our house, milk didn’t come from the store. It came from the milk tank after the cows were herded to the milking parlor, washed, milked and turned back to the pasture.
Perhaps I view my childhood through rose-colored glasses. And certainly kids raised in urban areas had experiences I didn’t, but back when I grew up a majority of kids had family or friends that lived on a farm, and visited them.
Sometimes I fear this kind of childhood is becoming as extinct as the dinosaurs.
Will children growing up today have the same experience, or will a farm be something they see in passing through a car window, on television or online? Every day I become more aware of the limited exposure children have to farming. How will children grasp all the hard work it takes to produce a gallon of milk if they don’t see, touch, taste, smell and hear farming in all its noisy, dirty, sweaty, smelly glory?
I believe the best way to achieve this is by providing children with exposure to farming, and there a lot of ways to do this.
- Talk about where food comes from
- Read age-appropriate books about agriculture
- Visit farmers markets and talk to farmers
- Check out USDA for kids
- Go to the agriculture exhibits at the fair
- Go to farm shows
- Join 4H
I don’t think there’s a better way to while away a childhood than in a hay barn filled with the scent of
alfalfa and a litter of newborn kittens. How have you incorporated agriculture into your child’s life? Has it been a positive experience?