All over the Plains, our farm kids are putting on their field clothes and packing their little “Paw Patrol” backpacks with their coloring books and tablets — just to spend another day in the buddy seat with Mom or Dad in the harvest field.
To them it’s an adventure: to climb up in the big combine and watch the wheat get chomped by the big header. But we know better. We know it’s so much more.
The buddy seat really is a multipurpose tool when you think about it.
For starters, it’s an excellent preschool. By the time our toddlers are ready for kindergarten, they have their colors (John Deere green), numbers (“count how many buttons are in the cab”), and shapes (“that’s a pivot circle”) down pretty pat.
Throw in some dry eraser marker work on the windshield to teach them their alphabet, and they’re ahead of everyone else in the class.
Sure, it takes creativity to think up these “lessons,” and not everyone has that time or patience in the heat of wheat harvest. That’s where a tablet and a fully charged battery come into play.
Your future valedictorian could be sitting in the buddy seat singing the “Alphabet Song” on repeat.
One of the best advantages to the buddy seat is you also have a front-window view on nature.
Whether it’s a fawn, or a nest of birds, or even critters a little more creepy-crawly, there’s loads of wildlife for our young explorers to see. Some of my best memories of going to the field with my parents were those times when we found wildlife.
Well, to be honest, the furry kind of wildlife. Most definitely not the slithery kind.
That buddy seat is also a pretty good place to learn about planting seeds in the ground, giving them nutrients and water, and then harvesting the crop after it’s grown.
The future agronomist, weed scientist or wheat breeder that our industry needs may just be sitting in that buddy seat, asking you what is in fertilizer.
More than a combine ride
I imagine plenty of parents worry about taking their children to the field. Juggling child care and fieldwork is an intricate dance of mornings riding shotgun with Mom in the combine, noon pit stops hauling wheat with Grandpa, and afternoon naps riding with Dad in the grain cart— broken up with the occasional swimming lesson or baseball practice in town.
The adults worry about missing a step. Meanwhile, the little ones are just excited to get to spend time with the adults in their lives.
Think about it: For a few hours, they have a captive audience for the critically important matters of their lives, such as the intricate plot twists of “Paw Patrol” and the baby deer they saw in the field yesterday.
Children are great mimics. They develop their own values and goals by watching the adults around them navigate life. And the buddy seat allows us an opportunity for teaching agriculture by example.
So, if you want your children to follow you into farming, it means showing them from an early age how and why you farm.
Answering “What’s that button do?” a thousand times, if you must, could be the way to make sure that the next generation wants to be the next in the command seat.