Harvest time is a busy time on every grain farm, and ours is no exception. However, I was upset by a recent article about farm safety, and so I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about balancing safety and the future of farming.
It is up to adults to ensure that children have a safe space to play. It is also up to adults to ensure the development of the future generation of farmers, by cultivating their interest and their skills. In my mind, these two statements can co-exist.
My alternate view of farm safety does not hinge on keeping children away from farm risks by fencing them into a confined space, by removing them from all farm equipment or preventing them from interacting with livestock. If we subscribe to this approach to farm safety, we will be raising a generation of children who are disengaged and resentful of farm life. Instead, I would like to engage in a conversation about when and how we can modify farm tasks to peak our children’s curiosity and excitement about farming. I believe that this is how we will raise and inspire future farmers. Children can learn the simple joys and principles of farming; our challenge is to embrace this window of opportunity to ignite a respect, a passion and a curiosity for the land and animals that we care for. If we can help our children to really experience farm life we will raise young people who understand the cycle of life, the complexity of Mother Nature and the importance of food production.
Certainly, it is not appropriate for children to be included in every farm job, all day, every day. However, it is important that children learn that farming involves both hard work and then satisfaction with a job well done. Or sometimes disappointment, despite a job well done. This means that children should get to see calves grow up into cows, and should see seeds grow up into crops and then be harvested as seeds again.
But, even better than seeing these things happen, children should be involved by doing. The doing is where the passion lives. Think of anything that you, or I, love doing. Take flying our drone, for example. I like to read articles on how to use the features of our drone. I watch videos showing others flying drones and demonstrating different techniques. I appreciate viewing images that other people have captured. But in the end, I want to do it. I want to fly the drone.
If we hope to raise the next 2% - those that feed 100% - then we must engage their heads and their hearts by finding safe ways for them to be and active part of their family farm.