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10 Reasons Kids Should Spend Time on a Farm

Photograph by Getty Images

I was raised on a potato farm in Idaho. By contrast, my son is growing up in L.A. There are definite benefits to him growing up in the city—he has access to an array of shopping, dining and cultural outlets; he learns street smarts and how to deal with crowds; he is exposed to religious and cultural diversity; and he can appreciate public transportation and the value of a parking spot.

However, there are also major advantages to growing up on a farm. Having recently visited my parents, I was reminded of all the invaluable lessons learned and benefits I received from growing up on a farm. As I witnessed my son happily taking on the farm mentality, soaking up information, and lapping up the space to run free, I realized how good it was for him to be there. Here are just 10 of the many reasons a kid should spend time on a farm.

1. They Are Wide Open Spaces

A farm is a giant playground. Kids can run for 20 minutes in the same direction or do 45 cartwheels in a row without running into a Starbucks or traffic light. They can scream and shout and let it all out without getting dirty looks from anyone but the odd cow. They can use a slingshot. They can even shoot bottle rockets (hypothetically, of course) at the neighbor’s house because that “neighbor’s” house is at least half a mile away. They can see blue skies for miles and millions of stars at night. They can also take a “convenience whiz” outside without you watching guard for disapproving passers-by. No one will EVER know. Or care.

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2. They Will Learn to Respect the Land

Seeing or participating in any part of the crop cycle helps kids appreciate that the land gives and sustains life. It is so exciting for my son to go into a field and dig up a mature potato plant and find a treasure trove of beautiful, dark brown potatoes buried below in the rich soil. As a kid, I loved to be outdoors, in nature. And to be a part of a farming family only deepened my appreciation of the beauty and life source of the earth. To witness or be a part of the of planting, nurturing or harvesting of a crop is a deeply satisfying and rewarding experience.

3. They Will Learn to Drive a Stick Shift

On a farm, basic driving skills include knowing how to shift gears. Even if your kid never uses this skill, it looks good on paper. And, aside from being able to drive an 18-wheeler, your child may someday drive a Ferrari, or an early '90s manual Ford Probe.

4. Ain’t No Time for Sissies

You can’t be wimpy about things in the farm life. Everyone keeps it moving and you do the same. You roll your sleeves up and prepare to get dirty. If you’ve been asked to bury the maggot-infested dead skunk that your mom finds behind the house, you do it, with a lot of dry-heaving, but you do it. The words, “But, I don’t feel like doing that…” aren’t often acknowledged. Plus, because it’s typically a small, tight-knit community. No one wants to be known as, “So and so, the wimpy kid.”

There’s not a lot of helicopter parenting on a farm.

5. It Fosters Independence

There’s not a lot of helicopter parenting on a farm. Because there is so much land, kids spend a lot of time outdoors not only exploring and playing, but also performing chores. Because the parents were raised to be independent, adults working and living on a farm, they don’t feel the need to watch children’s every move. For me, this meant that my cousins and I could ride four-wheelers or dirt bikes around the field and in empty canals for hours. It also meant that when I hid in the playhouse for hours (45 minutes, in reality) to make my mom think I had run away and feel sorry for yelling at me, she would never notice.

6. It Fosters Creativity

In the city, there are Chuck E. Cheeses, Trampoline Cities, Laser Tag Centers, City Walks and Science and Natural History Museums. These forms of entertainment are not easily accessible when you live on a farm. This forces you to make your own fun and rely on your imagination. You play hide and seek, fly kites, learn to walk on stilts, pretend you are archaeologists on a dinosaur bone (potatoes) dig, mountain climbers on Mt. Everest (mound of dirt), or Helen Hunt and Sarah Jessica Parker (my sister and me) in the final dance competition in Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (best movie ever).

7. It Demands Discipline and Hard Work

Certain things are just expected of you when you grow up on a farm. You wake up early to wade through mud and move irrigation pipe with your older brother. You learn to drive a truck and tractor before you’ve hit puberty. You take pride in your contribution to the operation of farm and family. The way of life is reinforced all around as not only do your peers all participate in farm work, but school is let out for two weeks every fall for Harvest Vacation.

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8. You Learn to Be Handy

You are around handy people. You hear handy talk. You effortlessly become a handy person. Kids grow up knowing the difference between a flat-head and a Phillips screwdriver, as well as socket wrenches and a crescent wrenches, and you know how to hitch a trailer and change a tire. Boom!

9. You Learn Respect for Weather

A drought has harsh repercussions for the farming world. As does a hailstorm or a late frost. Being aware that the weather directly impacts the crop helps kids appreciate the ways of Mother Nature.

10. It's Peaceful

Other than the occasional train or sound of air escaping from truck brakes, you hear birds singing, sprinklers turning and the sounds of a simple, beautifully innocent way of life.

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