Managing the Family Part of the Farm

Many praise our Fall gardens, but not the Spring work that the children did to fertilize them!

Many praise our Fall gardens, but not the Spring work that the children did to fertilize them!

A hispanic family pulled in today to buy some eggs and hens and one of the little boys with them peeked through the door into the warehouse and yelled, “Muchos ninos!”.  Yes, we have nueve of them, which everyone notices.

Managing the family on the farm, is as much a duty of my daily work as any other part of the farm management.  There are 1,001 tasks to be done everyday and the rule is:  “No one does a lesser person’s job.”  So, my job is to break down every job–and all jobs–into component parts suited to different members of the family.

The default job for any idle person is sweeping.  There is always sweeping to be done and normally that’s what you’ll find my three middle sons (Joshua, Jacob and Samuel) doing if you pull up the driveway.    In midsummer, weeding is added to sweeping, and just before Christmas, collecting pecans.  Little kids are always made to be cleaning…pick up, dust, sweep, etc..

My wife spends most of our working time in the kitchen, which for us means commercial kitchen for farm food processing.  She has to filter and process milk every morning and evening, gather and process garden produce, arrange butcher visits, clean eggs, make meals and keep the place clean.

I manage the skilled work out on the farm–the dairy, daily feed, training, moving animals, etc.. I shepherd the shepherds–directing the kids in pasturing the cows, sheep and goats throughout the day.  I do all of the “veterinary” work on the farm–from administering shots to delivering babies.

The boys are my apprentices, as are the girls for my wife.  They act as extra hands and feet to assist me in any job, and they learn by simply watching me do things and helping as they are able.  There are many jobs that require three people, and some jobs that require two, very few that are done best by one alone.  When my son brings hay out to the horses or cows at pasture, the gates will be opened and closed by his younger brothers.  While my wife is processing milk in the morning, my daughter is getting the babies ready for breakfast.  While one son is grinding feed corn, another is filling the water tanks.  While one child is sweeping, another is preparing the dust pan.  While I am milking, one of my sons is managing the cow’s milk-room feeding.  While my wife is laying out garden rows, the toddlers are sticking seeds along the strings.  This constant collaboration is not a cute way of managing children, but the wisdom of family life on the farm.  There are jobs for everyone that really make every member of the family beneficial to the others.

I’m not going to pretend that managing all this is easy.  Keeping everyone busy is not merely good or getting work done, but also for the moral development of every member of the family.  “Play” is a bad word in our family because one person’s play means extra work for someone else in the family.  God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”, not five days, not part of six days, etc.. There is plenty of time for leisure on Sunday, when we alll rest.  St. Paus taught us, “He who does not work shall not eat.” and play is not work.  I tell my sons, “If you want to play, go ahead.”  They know what that means.

Before anyone says, “But those poor kids…”, just hold on.  These poor kids are inheriting a working farm, with their future property already being paid off while they grow up.   The alternative to a working childhood is a worrying adulthood.  Most kids playing are simply ignoring their future needs, my children are providing for their future spouses and children, but caring for the farm that will benefit them all.  Modern families borrow money to buy houses for themselves.  Farm families borrow money to buy land for their children and work as hard as they do because they consider what they give to their children to be the real test of their responsible parenthood.  We read in the Bible much about heirs and inheritances, but we hear very little of such things among modern families.  It’s a different world they are living in.

There’s no need for Montessori schools on a farm because the children’s work is not fake adult work, but real work.  Be it ever so humble a job as sweeing the porch or filling a water tank, it is useful and profitable work. There’s no need to play and no need to fake work.   My job is to manage the family on the family farm.


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7 Responses to Managing the Family Part of the Farm

  1. Amie says:

    Do your 4-8 year olds play with the babies/toddler as their “work”? Or do you have another way to keep the toddlers/babies occupied?

    • wmclaa says:

      The little ones are with Mom up by the kitchen, and are watched by our daughters, yes, as a part of their work. Dad and brothers are not babysitters.

  2. urbanite says:

    Sorry but I don’t understand your argument that your system is economically advantageous for your children. They are inheriting a working farm – but there are 9 of them. How will that work? Do you envision all 9 children plus future spouses and children, living on the farm? In which case they had better marry someone who wants to farm. Or do you envision selling the farm and splitting the proceeds 9 ways – when? When your oldest children reach adulthood, or….?

    Honestly I don’t see how the economics work out for them.

    • wmclaa says:

      The alternative is for them to be living in a house owned by their parents in a suburb. How would that be better?

      First, a farm family enjoys a relationship that suburban families cannot understand. Suburban children grow up knowing that they must leave the family for jobs because there is no place for them to stay. There is no geographic stability and they begin their lives, in most cases, with very great debts.

      The farm family begins with sufficient land for children (who rise to adulthood over time, not all at once) who can start families and build sustainable income with their existing stability and collateral to help them. My children would need $100,000 to build a very nice home on land we own, and would need less income to live well–even if they decided not to continue farm work (which they all love, by the way). The children, having land, need no down payments to borrow money to build their homes (if they need to borrow money at all–I’m talking about a very nice house for $100,000 but they could choose to bulid something much simpler for much less). Even if all 9 of them divided our property here and built houses on it, they would have 6-7 acres each, which is still greater than the suburban children who will be paying $200,000+ for a decent house and 1/2 acre land–if that–all of which will be mortgaged and dependent on constant employment for check-to-check living.

      It would be stupid, though, to divided the land in pieces like that. Each child is simply deeded land enough for their house and the working farm land is kept intact. My father, for example, deeded me 1.7 acres to build a house. I used the 1.7 acres, which had a value of about $20,000 as collateral and built a 2,200 sq ft. home for $125,000 without a penny down. Compare that to suburban children renting apartments for more than I have to pay to own a brand new home!

      So, you can point out potential faults with the farm family economics, assuming that all of the children hate each other and hate living on a farm (which is untrue), but if you applied the same rule to the suburban family’s economics, the situation would be much, much worse. A small inheritance is not worse than debt slavery at age 23. The average college student graduates with $30,000 in debt, no property, no savings, etc.. How is that a better plan?

      • urbanite says:

        Wow, my question never assumed that the children all hated each other and farm living, and I don’t see where that is even implied.

        I think you may be creating a false dichotomy – there are other alternatives between farm living on one hand and debt-saddled suburban living on the other. I myself paid my way through college, graduated with no debt and live with my family in a city.

        In any event, thank you for answering. I wish you all the best.

      • wmclaa says:

        I didn’t say you suggested those things, I simply said assuming discontentment is misleading.

        I, too, paid my way through college with scholarships and part-time jobs, after growing up in a central Jersey suburb.

        How many of your friends did the same, though? Do you have any siblings? How did they do?

        I have two siblings–one lives married with two children in an apartment in NJ and the other is divorced with two children and lives with my parents and works at Target. Neither of them will ever own anything. Of the three of us, I would be lying to suggest my situation is what should be expected from people raised as we were. Most of my old friends still live in my old hometown area and have local jobs, in two-income homes, living less comfortably than their parents did, and usually even less comfortably than their grandparents did.

        Besides, what about your children? YOU made it through things well, as I did, but what will they do? That’s the question—as parents, what are we doing to put our children in the best possible position to succeed?

        God bless,

  3. urbanite says:

    I do have siblings, one of whom is starting a farm, which is how I came across your blog. I don’t want to get into details of my life or that of my family, except to say that they are not the same as the lives of your family, and that farm vs. New Jersey rental apartment are not the only two choices.

    I appreciate the clarification and I agree that declining standards of middle-class living and the cost of higher education are problematic. However I don’t agree with your analysis of the problem nor your solutions. I’ll leave it at that.

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