My Voice

Greetings from Minnesota. It’s a beautiful day here in Central Minnesota. Heavy frost last night and bright, sunny skies this morning make it feel more like mid-October than late November.

I think a farm is a great place to work, and experiencing the weather in all it’s glory (or fury) is just part of the deal.

Working with animals has been a part of my life since I was young, and now the time has come for me to speak up about just how important this is for me.

I’m not decidedly “political” but I do try to keep tabs on the issues. I call myself a moderate, and I believe citizens need to speak up when it’s called for.

Currently, the Department of Labor has a rule change up for comment. The actual change is countless pages, but the gist is this:

Youth will no longer be able to work on farms or with animals until they are over 16 or 18, depending on the job, unless the farm is solely owned by their parents.

This means a kid could no longer help out on grandma and grandpa’s farm. They couldn’t work on the family farm if it was owned jointly by their parents and an aunt, uncle or other partner. A city kid with an interest in veterinary medicine or plant science wouldn’t be able to get a job on a farm until they were practically done with high school.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface, but in my mind, it could be catastrophic for the future of farms and rural America.

Rather than trying to find new words to express my concern, I thought I would just share my comment with you.

“I urge you to please carefully consider how negatively this proposed rule would impact all of agriculture. As a farm kid and now a dairy farmer myself, I know that youth are the future of agriculture. Much of what I know about the animals, the land, and farm safety began with knowledge instilled in me at a young age as I gradually took on more and more responsibility on our farm.

I fully understand that the department of labor wishes to protect children and not expose them to hazards, but I think by restricting rural youth and their contact with animals and agricultural work , it may be even more dangerous. Many youth would not be able to learn and grow on a farm and be taught proper safety from the time they are young. Instead, they would be ignorant, and when the time did come for them to be old enough to work with animals or equipment, they would be starting from square one.

More devastating still, many youth wouldn’t be able to grow up with a love of animals or agriculture. They wouldn’t be able to train a heifer or pig to exhibit at the local fair. They may simply have no interest in farming when they are older because it wasn’t something they could pursue in their youth. How could America thrive or even survive if we kill our young people’s interest in producing food? Food is something that we simply cannot live without. As the average age of the American farmer gets older and older, it’s especially critical that we take steps to encourage our youth to farm – not constrain them from it.

Once again, I respectfully ask that you reconsider this proposed rule change. Thank You.”

If you want to read the full rule change or submit a comment of your own. Visit the website below.

http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=WHD-2011-0001-0001

Whew, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on that, I think I owe you all a few more updates.

As for 2737, she didn’t quite calve on Thanksgiving. The maternity pen was quiet when I left Thursday night.

Friday morning when I got to the farm one of my first stops was to check on the maternity cows. I found 2737 in the midst of labor with two little front hooves and a small nose coming out of the birth canal.

Once the feet and head are out, it should only take a few more pushes for the calf to enter the world.

The young almost-mother looked tired, and when the next contraction came, I grabbed hold of the front feet and helped her along with the last push.

Out came a little heifer calf, and once again the miracle of birth unfolded before my eyes.

Already 4 days old, baby happily smiled for my camera this morning.

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Another prediction, 6 miles on Thanksgiving morning, didn’t exactly happen either. Wednesday night got late at the farm, and Thursday I woke way later than planned.

I had just enough time to throw on tights and long sleeves to run the quick 1.5 mile loop around our house.

About noon on Friday I squeezed out time to run the planned 6 miles. It actually proved to be a great run with the last 3 miles at about 8:50 pace.

Sometimes procrastination works out. 🙂

Also at the farm, Etta had a big day on Friday. She got her first round of vaccines for respiratory diseases and pneumonia. You can see her here right in the middle of the picture.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Perhaps some of your predictions were more accurate than mine!

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About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
This entry was posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care, Henrietta (Etta for short!), Running and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My Voice

  1. jena says:

    I can’t read that whole document – mostly because I don’t have the patients to decipher what it is they are saying.

    You said that youth won’t be able to work on the farm until they are 16 or 18 – what is the “or.” Are there certain jobs that an 18yr old can do, that a 16yr old can’t do? Or have they just not decided on the age yet?

    I don’t think I agree with this rule. As you said, kids wouldn’t be able to be exposed to farm life until it’s kind of already to late. When are they supposed to have the final ruling on this?

    • Lisa says:

      I did some more reading and it seems that the age is dependent on the type of work. For example, you’d need to be over 16 to work with livestock in a traditional farm setting and over 18 to work with animals at sales, auctions, feedlots, etc. I’ll let you know if I find other pertinent info.

  2. I also don’t agree with that rule and completely agree with your logic. If kids don’t experience farming and learn the ropes as they’re growing (when they can learn the fastest), they’ll have a very steep learning curve as an adult. Moreover, it seems to me that most farmers have grown up on/around farms – I could definitely see the number of farmers decreasing if the access to it is taken away from young kids.

    If their argument is safety, they should change the hunting laws too – how is a 13 year old holding a rifle safer than working on a farm?

  3. Cassie says:

    Thanks for blogging about the proposed rule change. I probably would never have heard about it. I admire your calm words……even though I did not grow up working on a farm, my husband did, and I have an incredible amount of respect for all farmers. This proposed change is just a bit ridiculous. I plan on checking out the article and commenting myself.

    And that new calf is just too cute!

    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!

  4. Heidi Nicole says:

    I agree with you – that age bracket is a little ridiculous. We helped out on neighboring farms all the time before we were 16, usually not for money, but still. We all learned a ton about life and work ethics on the farm and I seriously don’t think a law limiting the age is even remotely a good idea. It will do a lot more harm than help.

    Cute calf – the ear tags always look so huge on their tiny heads!

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