• By Erin Kuiper •
On the western edge of Buckeye, Arizona, sits the family dairy farm where I grew up. My father Bill and mother Sine Kerr started their dairy business in 1980 at the ripe age of 18. Fast forward a decade and they would have four children; Wesley, Meagan (Kimmerle), myself and Julie Anne (Garcia).
My brother Wesley married a dairy farm girl, Lauren Butler (now Kerr), and I married a dairy farm boy, Brad Kuiper. If we take into account Wesley and Lauren’s three children and include my father, we have a total of 10 farm kids from four different Arizona dairy farms spanning three generations in our family!
As you might imagine, this makes for very entertaining storytelling about life on the farm when we are gathered together.
Much has been written about the type of childhood farm kids have. Most of the expressions that are commonly used about being raised on the farm are true: learning about hard work, dedication, grit, commitment, determination, resilience and being humbled in more ways than one can count.
There are endless lessons and experiences that could be shared and hopefully are being shared throughout the generations. Some educations and familiarities are unique to the type of farm, location of the farm and point in time in which you grew up on the farm.
However, we have come to find that there is a list of familiarities that no matter what, where or when you were on the farm if you are a farm kid, you will most likely know or be able to relate.
Prior to an interview with Arizona Farm Bureau’s Julie Murphree on “Talk to a Farmer,” I decided to ask my husband, my sister-in-law and my siblings what they thought were unique to our type of upbringing and what farm kids know that kids off the farm might not know.
Wesley and Lauren’s oldest daughter, Madelyn Kerr, also chimed in. The seven of us came up with a list. I had the list with me and was able to share most of it during the interview, but I was unable to mention everything. Below is our complete comprehensive list.
Things Farm Kids Know:
• We know how to build cottonseed forts.
• We know how to “ditch run.”
• We learned how to drive a tractor before driving a truck.
• We know what the “gas rock” is and how important (and difficult) it is to find just the right size.
• We know the best places to hide in the barn while playing hide and seek.
• Being barefoot most of the time, we learned to spot the difference between a sticker weed patch and a regular weed patch to cool off our feet in the summer.
• Staying with weeds, we also know the difference between chopping weeds and pulling weeds.
• We can carefully keep chickens away while simultaneously collecting eggs.
• We can spot which hay bales are safe to jump on and which ones are not.
• We can ride on the bumper of a truck and hold on to the tailgate like it’s our job.
• We got to know the local NAPA Auto employees by name.
• We can tell the difference between a hungry moo, a happy moo, a giving birth moo and a get out of the way moo!
• We can spot an old cow patty from a fresh one.
• We can tell which tractor is coming just by hearing the engine running.
• It was normal to hear our moms say things like:
-“We have people coming over, clean up the afterbirth from the yard.”
-“Don’t get manure on your church shoes!”
-“Spray the chicken poop off the porch.”
-“Get your chores done first.”
• We know what it’s like to wait on Christmas morning to open presents because our dad was out feeding cows and tending to the dairy so he could give his employees the morning off.
• We can catch the scent a field being cut or irrigated from miles away.
• The clinking sound of cow stanchions is music to our ears.
• We know about farm safety.
• We know how to responsibly care for a wide variety of animals.
• Our first jobs were not glamorous but we look back on them with pride. (My first job was spraying the manure off the walls in the barn. You bet I am proud of that!)
• We learned to work hard simply because a job needed to get done and we understood that we all had our part.
• We learned to be grateful for the good days and to remain hopeful on the bad days.
• We got a front-row seat in watching our parents run a 24/7 business that has really good times and really tough times. During all times, good or bad, we witnessed teamwork, sacrifice, devotion and a whole lot of faith.
Now of course there are many things that farms kids cannot relate to. Specifically, there are two things I can narrow down and say with great confidence that all farm kids do not know anything about:
• Sleeping in.
• Being bored.
If there is a greater childhood than being raised on a farm, I am unaware of it. The older I get and as I now raise a family of my own, the more grateful I continue to become for my upbringing on the farm.
Whether we are physically still on the farm or not and wherever our farm is or was; I am certain all farm kids can agree that our roots and a giant piece of our hearts will always remain on our childhood farm.
Erin Kuiper is the podcaster behind “Connect by Story.”