Evolution of Farm Kid Jobs

Kid's Farm Jobs Aren't What They Used to Be

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A family walks soybeans. Will the next generation of farmers even know what walking beans was? (DTN photo by Jim Patrico)

First off, let me say I don't think of myself as old and, in the grand scheme of things, 41 is really not that old. However, when you have little kids times come when they say things that make you feel old.

This happened with my children recently on two occasions. Our oldest son Kyle is 10 years old, our second son Burke will be 6 next week, and our daughter Ella will be 4 in two weeks.

The first incident happened when Burke saw a payphone and asked me what it was. I told him you put coins in it to make a call. Of course his first question was: Why don't you just use a cell phone?

Shortly after that, we were watching the movie "Back to the Future" on TV. The scene was unfolding in which the Libyans were chasing Doc Brown and Marty McFly in the mall parking lot and they drove through the little, yellow building where people used to drop off rolls of film for developing.

Kyle wanted to know what that building was since it was so small. I told him what it was and he didn't seem to fully grasp the concept of film development.

These two incidents got me thinking about some of the practices and machinery we used or use every growing season which future generations of farmers will not recognize. Off the top of my head, I found there was quite a list.

I spent most summers as a teenager walking beans, baling hay in small square bales and mowing yards. Of these activities maybe only the last one still exists, at least on a wide scale.

There is a bit of sadness when I think about how my kids will probably never walk miles of rows of weedy, wet soybeans all before noon to beat the summer heat. I enjoyed walking beans slightly more for my uncle and some of our neighbors than for my dad -- they paid me and he did not.

The same pay structure existed with baling small bales of hay. The good part of helping my dad bale hay, however, was I actually got to drive the tractor once in a while; also, he was about the same size as me and never made the bales too heavy.

One of our neighbors was a 300 pound, 6-foot-four-inch tall dairy farmer and he sometimes (okay, usually) made the bales way too heavy for me to get 5-6 rows up on the hayrack. At that point I usually rode on top and lined up the bales since the bales probably weighed about the same as I did back then. I was a fairly skinny teenager.

We still have an old New Holland 273 square baler with which we put up small squares every few years for grinding into cattle feed. I guess my oldest has already helped with this chore.

What about farm machinery? One piece of equipment my kids will probably never run is a cultivator. Again, beginning in my teen years, I would help my dad cultivate corn.

The rear-mounted, 3 point, four-row cultivator was on our John Deere 4010 and I was let loose to destroy weeds and sometimes four rows of corn at a time. We had a couple of flatter fields which were easy to cultivate, but the hills and terraces and all of the point-rows were pretty challenging for a novice operator.

Another piece of farm equipment my kids won't recognize or use (much like payphones) would be the bean buggy. The bean buggy was my all-time favorite piece of farm machinery we never owned. It belonged to a neighbor.

One summer I helped that neighbor bean buggy his soybeans. I couldn't believe I was being paid to sit on a bar with three other people and spray weeds. This was WAY easier than walking through the field!

It even was like an amusement park ride. Farming in the hills of eastern Nebraska meant there were ditches, sometimes big ones, to cross.

When I was on the far seat of the bar and the tractor driver would find the ditches, I was sometimes way above the tractor or the foot rest was digging into the soil. This was no ride at Worlds of Fun, but it was still better than walking and cutting weeds.

All of this makes me wonder what practices or equipment we utilize in agriculture today that will be obsolete when my children look back at their childhood. I'm sure my sons probably hope it is cutting thistles out of pastures with a shovel, something my dad has had both of them doing in recent weeks.

Sorry, boys, but that might be one chore which is done on the farm until the end of time.


Russ Quinn