Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In Support of Child Labor

Kids on the farm. Communing with nature. Connecting with the source of their food. Frolicking with lambs, piglets, and chicks that may someday grace their dinner table.

Okay, not in my world. We fall somewhat short of that idyllic picture. I have to admit that I prefer to be by myself when I head to the farm. It’s wrong, I know. Part of the reason I’ve stayed a CSA member so long is in pursuit of that description above. But, man, is it more relaxing when I’m solo!

I had such good intentions on one particular ill-fated outing to the farm with all three of my kids. We have work days on one Saturday a month at Turner Farm. It’s a good time to make up hours and work on bigger tasks with other sharers. Usually, there’s a good job for kids. Well, this work day, it was a nice cool morning and the kid-friendly task was harvesting potatoes. The farm has a horse-drawn cultivator that brings the potatoes to the surface and it’s an easy, if not dusty, job to collect the potatoes just sitting there in the upturned soil. Great job for little hands.

Or so I heard. We didn’t quite make it to that first potato harvest. We (myself and my three, five, and seven-year-old kids) went to the second potato harvest. Happened to be on the hottest, most humid night of last summer. And, in a serious lapse of judgment, I did not bring a drop of water. The potato field is, of course, one of the farthest fields from the produce shed and the water faucet. Within seconds of stepping out of the air-conditioned van, we were covered with sweat. Within minutes, we were covered with mud, as the dust from the fields settled on us. The whining commenced. And continued for the entire time we were in that field. Other sharers harvesting potatoes gradually moved further and further away from me and my mud-streaked pack. I cajoled, encouraged, threatened, bribed. And eventually gave up. When we returned home, looking like a family of migrant farm workers, my husband had an ‘I told you so’ look about him, but wisely kept quiet. So much for that vision of my kids enjoying the productive and meaningful task of harvesting their own food. Did I mention I tend to be a romantic?

We’re making progress, though. My daughter attended a day-camp at Turner Farm this summer and loved it, even though she worked hard feeding animals, planting, harvesting. (By the way, I think it’s a brilliant move on the farm’s part to have us pay to have our kids work for them. I’m all for it!) The older they get and the more exposure they get to the produce, to being on the farm - it’s all good. The fact that my son actually asks for okra (okay, fried okra, but still!) brings a smile to my face. I just need to adjust my expectations and appreciate that any exposure to good food, soil, and fresh air is beneficial.


valereee said...

LOL on the mental picture of you and your mud-streaked crew!

BustedFlush said...

My daughter is 3, and this summer mom took her to a self-pick strawberry patch. She was given a bucket, and shown what to do.

She picked one, looked up at mom and said "I done." and proceeded to whine the rest of the time there. What are you gonna do? You expose them to as much as you can and hope some of it rubs off. :)

Renee said...

I share your romantic vision of city children visiting a farm, learning where their food comes from and having the time of their lives. Perhaps this was one of those "they'll thank you later" experiences.

vudutu said...

LOL Val, good for you, what a great reality check, kids should have to feed themselves at some point in their education. They should go hungry, have to live off the land. Know where food really come from, not just how to rip open a package. We are so removed from reality in this country and our kids are coddled, soft, they think they are entitled, it may be our downfall.
I have a theory, if you want to fix this country every student should be drafted, they can then vote with their feet, military or Peace Corp, BUT they have to serve time in a third world country and live off the land.