Growing Up Dairy

Growing up on a Dairy farm is a unique and rewarding experience that will shape a person’s life in so many ways. The days often start early, with the familiar sound of you father’s boots thumping on the floor, and they are often brought to a close when everyone drops into bed exhausted by the cycles of the farm. Children that grow up on a dairy farm learn the tangible, hands on, and sometimes hard lessons of life, and death.

I spoke to some former “Dairy Kids” for this story, and they almost unanimously agreed that their childhoods were filled with lasting happy memories, skills and important life lessons whose value only became evident to them later in life.

Early on, the value of hard work is instilled in everyone who lives on a dairy farm; hard work is inescapable. Farm kids grow up around animals; whether it’s the dairy herd, the farm dogs and cats, or the frogs they catch in the creek, there is no shortage of creatures to play with and interact with on a dairy farm. They grow up in an environment that allows them to freely explore the world around them. They are unincumbered by the restrictions that their city dwelling peers will face.

But……its not all fun and games.

Most of those who grew up on a farm lamented having to work after school & on weekends when all you want to do is go hangout with friends. Sealing the bunker and throwing tires is never a kid’s idea of fun. From young eyes & perspective, it often seemed that farm kids were working so much harder and longer than their friends were, and mostly with no monetary or immediate reward.

Farm life has infinite positive and far-reaching benefits to children, both tangible and intangible, even if they don’t necessarily see or appreciate them until they are adults. What they learn and absorb will stay with them for a lifetime, and whether they choose to follow in the footsteps of their family, or choose a life off the farm, they will carry with them a childhood that prepared them to adult with skills vital to a life well lived.

Learning about hard work and responsibility: Dairy Farms require a lot of work, dedication and commitment, and children who grow up on dairy farms are expected to pitch in and help from a young age. Chores such as feeding & milking the cows, cleaning up after them, or the aforementioned tire throwing are part of the relentless cycle on the farm. The value of a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility are instilled at a young age when they see that their efforts are essential for the farm’s success.

Developing an appreciation for nature: Children who grow up on all farms are often surrounded by the beauty of nature and learn to appreciate the cycles of life and the importance of stewardship. Whether they grow up on a dairy, or a farm that grows canola, kids who live on farms tend develop a deep connection to nature, and learn to appreciate the changing seasons, the importance of a healthy environment, and the significance of sustainable farming practices. They learn about the challenges of weather and other factors that can impact crops and animals. This knowledge will help develop a deep respect for the environment and a commitment to preserving it and the importance of conservation.

Learning about animal care: Farm children have the opportunity to learn about the care and feeding of animals, which can develop into a deep understanding and appreciation for the role that animals play in our lives. Caring for the cows on the farm provides children with the unique opportunity to develop a connection and relationship with the animals where they learn to understand the needs of the cows and how to care for them properly. This fosters empathy and compassion, as children develop an appreciation for the value and importance of all living creatures as they learn to care for and nurture the animals on the farm.

Access to fresh food: Growing up on a farm often means access to fresh, healthy food straight from the source. Children who grow up on farms are exposed to a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and other farm-fresh foods. They often develop a greater understanding of the importance of nutrition and healthy eating. They learn about the nutritional value of milk and other dairy products, as well as the benefits of eating fresh produce from the farm. This can instill healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.

Developing a strong sense of community: Farms are often family businesses, and children who grow up on farms are likely to develop close relationships with their parents, siblings, and extended family members who work on the farm. They also learn about the importance of community and helping their neighbors.
The farming community tends to be close-knit and supportive, with families often relying on each other for help during busy seasons or when faced with challenges. This can help children develop strong social skills and a sense of belonging.

Developing creativity and independence: Children who grow up on farms often have plenty of room to play and explore, which can help foster creativity and independence.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of growing up on a farm is the opportunity to play and explore in wide-open spaces. Children who grow up on farms often have plenty of room to run, play, and explore nature. They can play in haylofts, climb trees, and ride bikes through fields. This freedom to explore can help foster creativity and independence.

Opportunities to learn new skills: Growing up on a farm can offer a variety of opportunities to learn new skills. Dairy farming as a business has some very tight margins. As such, farmers are required to have a very broad and deep set of skills to minimize the necessity to hire others to perform tasks on the farm. Out of necessity, farmers are often some of the most skilled business owners you will ever find! Children benefit from this deep knowledge and skill by learning basic life skills in animal husbandry, gardening, and carpentry.

Clearly, growing up on a dairy farm can offer a wide variety of benefits, from learning important life skills to developing a deep respect & connection to nature and the environment. A relationship with animals and deeper understanding of the role that animals and farming play in our lives. It creates connections for kids that often develop a deeper appreciation for nutrition and health. These skills and values can serve them well throughout their lives, whether they choose to stay involved in dairy farming or pursue other careers and interests, growing up “dairy” is a rich and rewarding experience for most have had the good fortune to do it.

Written by Teresa Laynes- Marketing Manager @ inBarn Solutions with the help of AI tool Chat GPT