Farm Kids Gain New Routines during COVID-19
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
By Caleb Hicks
For most kids who grow up on farms, spring provides many opportunities for playing sports, getting outdoors to enjoy the weather and counting down the days till summer vacation. Throw a pandemic that closes schools two months early in the mix, though, and the farm just gained a few extra hands.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many farm families welcomed the help of their children while schools were shuttered.
Montgomery County farmer Jeremy Brown said having his two girls, Ansley, 12, and Lydia Grace, 8, help on the farm was a great opportunity for them to learn where their food comes from and the importance of farming in the agricultural industry and the world.
“I feel my girls are fortunate to live on a farm,” said Brown, who owns and operates Brown Farms in Ramer. “For them to have the opportunity to go with me to feed chickens and cows, help me work on fences or make plans for the future provided so much hands-on learning experience, even while they continued to do their schoolwork from home.”
Along with their dad’s six poultry houses, the sisters, who will be seventh- and third-graders at Hooper Academy in Hope Hull this fall, have 11 registered red angus heifers and two dairy heifers they manage. Both weighed in on their take on farm chores.
“I like learning how to work the controls on the houses and, of course, taking care of my cows,” Ansley said. “But really, I love when we get baby chicks and we feed them, and then they come around my feet because they think I’m their mama. That just makes me laugh.”
While Ansley assists with the more involved activities, Lydia Grace helps with the easier tasks.
“I try to name as many of the baby chicks as I can,” Lydia Grace said. (A big job, when you have 25,000 chicks per house.) “I love to name them Chicken Nugget, Chicken Breast or Chicken Loin.”
Not far down the road, in Luverne, Crenshaw County farmer Christopher Hilburn said he enjoyed having his kids work alongside him when their school closed.
“During this time, I want my kids to appreciate and know where their food comes from while learning different responsibilities,” Hilburn said. “I hope it makes them better people and understand that you don’t have to depend on others to get what you want in life, as long as you work for it.”
Hilburn runs Double H Farms, which has four poultry houses, with another two in progress, and a small cattle herd. His 7-year-old daughter, Natalee Jane, a rising second-grader at Crenshaw Christian Academy in Luverne, said she enjoys riding the farm equipment with her dad.
“I like to ride the excavator,” she said.
Her 4-year-old brother, John Allen, a preschooler at the academy, said his favorite thing is helping drive the excavators and “big” trucks and baling hay.
Both the youngsters said they missed school, but they were having fun on the farm.
Up in Cullman County, Auburn University poultry science senior Nathan Duke was taking what he was learning in his classes and applying it to his daily farm work on his family’s poultry and cattle farm, Scooby Dew, in the Walter community.
“It took a little time for me to get transitioned to total online classes the last part of spring semester,” Duke said. “But being able to take what I was studying right then and implement it on the farm gave me a neat opportunity.”
Duke said that, despite the pandemic, they are doing their part to keep food on tables.
“People still have to eat,” he said. “You hate not to be around your friends, but global pandemic or not, we come out here every day because the job still has to be done.”
For Brown, teaching his brood how to care for and raise livestock is an important process, not only for their future but for the future of farming as well.
“My kids are learning we’re raising chickens for food,” Brown said. “We tend and care for our chickens and make sure they have everything they need so we can produce the best quality meat possible. Our future lies in the hands of the next generation, and having my girls here while school was out to teach them life lessons on the farm makes me feel the future is bright.”