Farm Progress

Home Front: Parenting as a team makes you smarter and stronger — and the same goes for farming.

3 Min Read
father and son standing in field

I had the privilege of picking up 4-year-old Ava, one or our granddaughters, from Sunday school and asked her the well-worn question she was probably anticipating. “What did you learn today?” She was definitely prepared and answered without hesitation. “If I’m smart and you’re smart, then together we’re even smarter! If I’m strong and you’re strong, then together we’re even stronger!” I happened to know the Bible verse she was referring to. It’s the last sentence in Ecclesiastes 4:12: A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Joining forces to become smarter or stronger is essentially forming a team: people working together for a common goal. I haven’t had much experience in organized athletics, although I was the quarterback of my sorority’s Powder Puff football team. Trust me, I got that position by default. I was the only one who knew the difference between a running back and an offensive guard. With that in mind, I may have actually made the team a little smarter.

My first experience with teamwork was growing up and helping Dad on the farm. There was no doubt who was the quarterback of the farming team. That was Dad, who was also the coach, the general manager and the owner-operator. Ava’s definition was only partially true for our farming team. We were definitely stronger together, but I’m not sure the “smarter together” aspect applied.

Beyond that, I was part of many sports teams in high school. Our own kids had the same experiences — being on the “team” both on the farm and at school. There are definite differences between the two. On the farm, teamwork is essential to guarantee safety and success. And perhaps the biggest difference is that the ages of the team members can span more than one generation, and the team members can be men or women, boys or girls.

My Powder Puff football experience was short-lived, but the true value of being a member of a team soon became a long-term adventure. John and I were married, and six years later, when our oldest son was born, we became the co-captains of our family team. When I was chosen as the 2001 Illinois Mother of the Year, I seriously wanted to rename the honor and make it the Illinois Mother and Father of the Year.

Whenever possible, it’s best for parenting to be a team sport. The idea is simple: The two of you together, Mom and Dad, are much smarter and stronger!

For the past few years I have been an integral part of our farming team. I’m certain I will never — let me rephrase that — should never be named the Hired Man (or Woman) of the Year. And as far as Ava’s 4-year-old recollection of the lesson she learned that Sunday morning, I’m certain my joining the team made us neither smarter nor stronger together. Yet I know we’re a team because we work together for a common goal — to get the crop in, get it out and make a profit.

And I’m going to add, have some fun along the way!

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn. Email [email protected], or visit


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