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Farmer’s Wifee: Farm chores and compensating your kids

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As a small family farm, our children are part of every aspect of what we do. I remember bringing our oldest son home from the hospital and having him at the barn that week as I fed calves and other chores. Shortly after we had our youngest son, all our hired help quit during silage season. We set him up in a portable swing in the milking parlor while we milked cows. Needless to say, they have been knee deep in farming from the day they were born.

Naturally, they have grown up watching and learning every task that is done on the farm. They want to be part of the everyday life, and to be honest, we want them to be. We are adamant about farm safety and making sure everything they do is age appropriate.

So comes the question: Should farm kids be compensated for chores? I wholeheartedly think they should. Each family has to decide what is best for their family, but for our family, our children are paid.

Growing up I was not raised on a farm; I had chores but nothing like what our children do. I was not compensated for my chores. Keeping the house clean, my room clean, and such were just part of growing up and learning to become a responsible adult. Our children also have these chores, but what they do on the farm goes above and beyond that.

After many conversations with friends and fellow farmers about growing up on the farm and farm succession planning, we quickly decided that our kids should be compensated for their chores. We have a base rate each month for each child based on their age. If they go “above and beyond,” they can receive more. The majority of what they earn goes into a savings account that they cannot access until they are 18. They get a small portion in which they can use to do whatever they would like, even though majority of the time they would rather save than spend.

So why do we do this?

We want them to feel valued. Of course, you do not have to pay children for them to feel valued, but when they go above and beyond then maybe we should go above and beyond a simple thank you and a pat on the back. Everything that they do, no matter how “small,” is something we do not have to do – or, if we are being honest, something we don’t have to pay someone else to do.

We want them to have something to show for their hard work. Yes, we are very much aware that a roof over their head, clothes on their back, and food on the table is great, but those are basic rights that every child should have. By compensating them for going above and beyond, they are able to buy a toy that mom and dad might not buy, save for the future, learn money management, and feel the pride that hard work reaps great rewards.

We want them to have a savings account for the future. We could just put money in a savings account for a rainy day fund, college, or a down payment on their future home (or farm). That would be easy to do, but when that time comes, we believe they will value that money so much more knowing they worked hard for it. We never just want to “give” our children something, that is not how life works. Our responsibility as parents is to raise children who grow up to be responsible adults, and there is nothing more irresponsible than an adult who expects everyone else to pay their way.

We want them to come back to the family farm. We most certainly will support our children no matter if they stay on the farm or choose a different career path. With that said, we have met quite a few farmers who have stated that they don’t feel like their parents valued them based on the fact that they never were compensated growing up, which has carried over into farm succession planning. We never want our children to not feel valued or that all their hard work over the years wasn’t worth it. We want them to feel pride in the fact that played a vital role in our farm’s success and that hopefully that will help their decision to stay and take over the farm and carry on the next generation.

At the end of the day, every family has to choose what is best for their family and farm. This is what works best for us, and we are happy to say that the faces of these three little farmers each month when they take their money to the bank and explain how hard they worked to get it is so beyond worth it.

Image courtesy of Krista Stauffer
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