Farming & Motherhood*

This morning our family celebrated a milestone.  Our oldest child, Johnny, boarded a big yellow school bus and rode off into the horizon as a Kindergartener.  He was super excited and I managed to keep the tears to a manageable level.  And as these life events have a tendency to do, it makes a mother reflect on her success raising her children. 

When I reflect on my own skills as a mother, I cannot help but also think about my skills as a farmer.  Being a farmer and being a mother have so many things in common.  They both require fortitude, flexibility, creativity and harbor elements of surprise, shock, and awe.  I am always amazed by those women who pull it off so effortlessly.  I always feel like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, running around with a tornado of dust and debris as I jump from one imminent task to the next.  Move the cows, water the plants, make dinner, shut the greenhouse, give someone a bath (animal or child), get the kids up…you get the idea.  When you think about it, they are basically the same task.  You are ushering something from a seed or egg into the world, and then caring for it as best you can – hoping it will turn out as the best of its class, be it animal, vegetable or human.  Along the way, however, you learn patience, persistence, humility and how to ask for help.  You get dirty, you get wet, you laugh and you cry.  You set standards and create systems…all hoping for a successful outcome.

There are many times…let’s say when you have a baby strapped to your chest and a toddler running amuck while you try to herd 300 chickens into their pens for the night that you feel guilty for not giving your kids all the attention they deserve.  But then if you look back at how they get to grow up…knowing where their food comes from, seeing things raised from seeds or babies that then in some fashion or another end up on their plate; knowing the meaning of a hard day’s work; living outside whether it’s comfortable or not; coming up with all sorts of imaginary plots, all played out in the theater of an old barn; naming their dinner menu items by the farmer who grew them; wowing their friends with their knowledge of not just tomatoes, but ‘Juliette’ or ‘Moskovich’ Tomatoes…I think it’s worth all the times they spent in their car seats while we tended to some farm emergency, the naps they took in the stroller inside the greenhouse in March, the Saturdays spent at Farmers Market stands instead of playgrounds, and the dinners that happened after dark all summer. 

All in all, I am happy for the life we have chosen for our family.  Although it is not an easy feat, I am proud to be able to raise my children in connection with the land, the weather, the ups and downs of farming, and the people who we interact with as a result of our agricultural pursuits.  I hope when they grow up they have fond memories of their childhood and are also glad their parents chose to teach them to work hard, eat well, and roll with the punches.

I am always interested in the strategies Farm Moms use to manage raising kids and running a farm…so if you have any words of wisdom, please share them here for other Farm Mom’s to put to use!!

*Full Disclosure:  Although this article is titled Farming & Motherhood…at our house it should probably be named Farming & Parenthood as my husband, Paul, is equal part farmer and parent.  He stayed home with our son (while running our farm) until he was two!

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About Kirsten Workman

Kirsten works for UVM Extension as an Agronomy Outreach Professional for the Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team. She works with farmers to implement practices to improve crop production and protect water quality. It is her goal to provide practical information that farmers value. She helps them prepare and implement comprehensive nutrient management plans, and helps farmers access cost-share funding to implement Best Management Practices on their farms. Kirsten also manages her team's outreach materials, website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and blog.
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