indiana Prairie Farmer Logo

Push kids off farm this summer

Hoosier Perspectives: Let your kids take advantage of this time to gain experience.

Allison Lund, Indiana Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

June 3, 2024

3 Min Read
A young man pushing a wheelbarrow on a farm
NEW PERSPECTIVES: Working for another employer off the farm will give your kids the chance to see how a business works outside of the family setting. This will allow them to learn new skills and make mistakes without their parents or family there to guide them. Allison Lund

Finding a job off the farm during the summer months was one of the best decisions I made while growing up. Except it was not my decision. It was my dad’s.

I always relied on our tobacco crop to keep me busy during the summer months and provide a steady flow of spending money to support my summer fun. However, as my dad and his brothers cut back on tobacco acreage, there was not nearly as much work for me and my siblings.

“You need to find a job in town,” my dad stated, matter-of-factly. There was no pleading for other odd jobs around the farm. It was time for me to figure things out for myself.

All about experience

My first off-farm job was working as an assistant at a bridal shop that my friend’s mom owned. I also picked up occasional shifts milking for a local dairy farmer. Eventually, I landed at a grocery store as a cashier. Quite the variety, huh?

Although my job now does not directly relate to any of those positions, it does benefit from the experiences I gained at those businesses. I learned to think outside of the box at the bridal shop. My dairy knowledge became stronger through milking cows — especially because I was one of the oddballs who grew up on a Wisconsin farm with no dairy cattle. And at the grocery store, I learned how to talk to people.

Nate Thompson, a Purdue student from Francesville, Ind., who grew up on a farm, also recognizes the potential that these off-farm jobs possess.

“I feel like having just a little bit of other background through being employed by someone else or an internship would be nice — to have that experience,” Thompson says.

While Thompson did not have an off-farm job in high school, he has worked to find internships and employment opportunities during the summer when he is away from college. He knows that gaining knowledge from other areas of the industry will make him more valuable when he returns to the family farm someday.

“Having that other experience has just been good to see how other operations work and how their business structure works,” Thompson adds. He says he can take what he has observed and apply some parts of it to his family farming operation when he returns.

Hard to leave

Taking a job off the farm can seem terrifying, especially for those farm kids who want to return someday. My younger sister is currently in the early stages of this process. “Can you give me any farm work” is a sentence she rattles off almost daily to my dad. But just months away from turning 16, she’s at the point where she’ll have to venture into an off-farm job. And it’ll be great for her.

Sometimes, kids are the only help you may have for a day or two on the farm. But in the long run, it will be most beneficial for them to find a job in town or at another farm or ag business. There, they can grow by making mistakes and learning how to solve problems. And most high school jobs are flexible, allowing kids to return to the farm when they’re really needed.

It is tough leaving the farm, but it is never a permanent goodbye. Even though I’m two states away from my family farm, this job is still teaching me things that I bring back to share when I find myself back on the farm.

About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Indiana Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Allison Lund worked as a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer before becoming editor in 2024. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. She lives near Winamac, Ind.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like