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Opportunities to learn and grow

By Jennifer M. Latzke

“Requiring nothing of a child gives them no chance for failure or success. Give your kids opportunities to learn and grow.” —Dave Ramsey

No one truly enjoys chores.

I don’t care if you are 9 or 99. Whether you’re taking care of a household or a farm, or feeding livestock or maintaining equipment. No one gets up and is giddy over mucking stalls or hauling feed or dusting furniture or taking out the trash.

But, stuff has to get done.

There isn’t a farm kid who hasn’t done his or her share of early morning chores before that school bus showed up at the farm or late night chores after athletic practice and before homework. And, it wasn’t that long ago when coaches used to advise teenage boys to go work on a farm over the summer to build up muscles rather than spend hours in a gym on equipment.

Any livestock exhibitor has spent hours working with their animals before and after school. Those young rodeo competitors have spent their summer vacations loading and unloading trailers and driving up and down the highway from rodeo to rodeo. We even have a few “All Aboard” families whose children grew up moving equipment, running combines in the field and hauling grain to town as soon as their feet could reach the pedals.

But today, there’s still pressure from outside farming communities to reduce “child labor” on our farms and ranches. Those outside of agriculture look at what we do as if we’re monsters daring to ask our children to actually work on a family farm.

“Let children be children” is often the rallying cry from those sectors.

To that, I say, I did plenty of childish things when I was working for my folks on the farm.

I climbed giant haystacks to pitch down feed for my sheep and calves. I rode my bike out to the pole barn behind the house to run water and exercise 4-H calves. I played with baby lambs and bucket calves as I bottle-fed them. I explored the barn looking for the mama kitty and her summer kittens while laying out some extra kitty chow for her.

My siblings and I would actually use our imaginations to make up games while we were working with Mom and Dad. When my sister was babysitting me in the summers, she was also in charge of cooking and delivering meals to the field. I learned to read and count as she read recipes to me and asked me to help her in the kitchen. My brother taught me how to ride a four-wheeler while we were gathering cattle from the pasture.

Sure, there were some times when this bookworm just wanted to read a book on the porch swing and not work. But my parents reminded me that if I wanted something done, I had to work for it. And they were never far away if I needed guidance or a little extra help. Succeed or fail, they were just proud that I tried.

Sure, back then I might have looked at my city friends with a little bit of envy. Summers spent at the city pool, or playing softball, or taking fantastic vacations seemed to be so much better than a summer working for Mom and Dad.

But today, I realize my summers were much more than video games and afternoons tanning at the pool. They were opportunities for me to learn and grow by helping my family on our farm.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or

Date: 8/18/2014


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