Teens balance farm chores, school work

Teens balance farm chores, school work

Emily Wright

Waking up at sunrise, taking care of animals and working in the summer sun to harvest crops may seem like arduous tasks.

However, according to agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser Kevin Duncan, living on a farm instills a priceless work ethic in his students.
“They know when they go home that they have certain things they have to do,” Duncan said. “I think responsibility definitely builds character. On a Saturday morning they might have to get up and help with things. If they commit to something, they probably have a lot better chance of following through.”
Senior Sam Garrett lives on a farm south of town where she raises sheep, goats, cows, horses, dogs and cats. As one of Duncan’s FFA students, she acknowledges the responsibility farm life brings to her already busy schedule of school and sports.
“Sometimes I get aggravated being far away from town and not being able to do some things, but I’m really glad I got to grow up on a farm because my situation is very different from a lot of people at Rock Bridge,” Garrett said. “I get to experience living in a city and being on a big farm.”
Recently, this experience has included helping her sheep give birth. During the winter, Garrett said the sheep wait for the coldest days to have the lambs she will show at the Boone County Fair during the summer. Because of the lambs’ small sizes and fragility, she sometimes bottle-feeds and raises them in the warmth of her home.
“Right now, we are having lambs, and these are the ones we will show. So once they get a little older, we will start trying to work with them,” Garrett said.  “On a given day, right now we just check on the lambs because they are really small, and we need to make sure they are OK. Sometimes we have to put them under heat lamps to make sure they don’t get too cold.”
Fortunately, Garrett is not alone on this task. Her father, mother and 21-year-old brother Will also help with the animals. In fact, the farm on which Garrett lives was also the childhood home of her mother and is located minutes away from the farm where her father grew up. For her, being close to family is what makes farm life worth it.
“Everyone has a support system,” Garrett said, “but mine is right by me, so I can go to them and be with them whenever.”
Garrett said her family is the biggest factor when it comes to choosing a college, too. She has considered out-of-state schools such as Wichita State University, but staying in town is more appealing to her family. After spending her childhood on her 160 acres of land, she does not want to have to adapt to an entirely different lifestyle.
“When I first decided to look at colleges, I underestimated the role my family would play in my decision,” Garrett said. “It will be hard to go away. Growing up with them around me, having all that, it’s a situation not everyone gets to have, so I don’t want to leave.”
Senior Nicole Montgomery is also torn as she makes her college decision. Similar to Garrett, she grew up helping on her family’s farm. However, to Montgomery this has meant spending hours harvesting pecans on 10 acres of land.
“We have over 200 trees in our front and back yards,” Montgomery said. “They are pecan trees, so we grow, harvest and sell them. We end up with a lot of pecans, like a few thousand pounds. It will be hard to leave the farm because it’s my home.”
However, Montgomery’s life as a self-proclaimed “farm-girl” has been different than that of Garrett. Since her family solely farms pecans, she only works in the months of October and November.
“I feel like we’re not really farmers. We don’t have animals,” Montgomery said. “But it’s still a pecan farm, so I like to think that I am still part of farm culture. We have two sheds [and] a bunch of tractors. My dad goes to tractor club.”
To Montgomery participating in “farm culture” also means valuing work ethic. Growing up assisting her father has taught her the importance of diligence.
“My dad would just [harvest the pecans] all by himself,” Montgomery said. “He shakes the trees. He would always get the pecans out by himself. And so whenever I would help out, it would be a really big help for him. When I worked and he worked, we would get done faster.”
Overall, the girls agree farm culture — having acres of land for a backyard, being close to family and working for something bigger than themselves — has helped to shape them into the people they are.
“I think the big thing is that living on a farm has made my family really close,” Garrett said. “I think that having the experience that we do with farming has really brought us together. We all have to work for it.”
By Emily Wright