Now that school is out, my 13-year-old daughter is embracing her new schedule. In short, she doesn’t do anything. These last few days have found her on the couch, TV blaring, i-pod headphones in place and reading an e-book on her Nook. I can’t help but think that although my childhood on the farm was difficult, there were lessons learned by all those hot, summer days spent bean-walking at dawn, fence-painting at noon and manure-scooping at sunset - lessons she’ll never learn.

Although this is a short-term blip before her sports, church and academic summer camps begin, it still seems like those camps, wonderful as they are, can’t possibly teach the life skills I learned growing up on a farm.

I learned how to be strong by hoisting hay bales; I learned how to be tolerant walking beans - getting up before dawn, cutting weeds out of steaming, muddy fields that stretched for miles; I learned how to be fast by chasing pigs that got out of the feedlot; I learned to be gentle but firm while holding squirming baby pigs for vaccination; I learned about the circle of life when animals we raised from birth were sold to market (regardless of my tears and months of bonding). All are skills unlearned by today’s Iowans, now three or more generations removed from farming.

Not only are too many suburban-dwelling kids like my daughter removed from the character-building value of the sweaty, dirty, heavy-lifting jobs which are a part of farm life, they’re uneducated on modern food production. How can we be surprised when they are seduced or recruited by animal activists who claim food today comes from cruel practices or polluters? Many kids have never been on a farm to gain the experience to discern the truth themselves.

But, I propose we find a way to get these suburban “couch dwellers” to a type of Farm Camp, where they can spend a week or two pulling weeds, painting fences, chasing pigs, scooping manure. They just may learn that it takes more than a trip to the grocery store to put food on the table. And, who knows how that knowledge can be applied to benefit parents everywhere; I have a feeling that if nothing else, these suburban kids will come away from livestock chores thinking they have no reason to complain when Mom tells them to pick up after their dog in the back yard, you know?

Written by Laurie Johns
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.