I gave birth to my son in July of the year we started Good Heart Farmstead.
Needless to say, he was our best crop that season. He’s also unknowingly dictated our work schedule ever since.
Being a farmer and a parent means balancing the needs of crops, customers, and children. And yourself, too — self-care is essential.
While there’s a romantic vision of raising a family on an organic farm, the day-to-day scene can fall far from the daydream.
When running a farm business asks for efficiency, children ask for slowing down.
When you need an hour alone, your child needs to play.
When the crops need to be washed, your child commandeers the hose and washes you instead.
In the best of times, farming and parenting teach patience and compassion. In the worst of times…well, let’s just say I’ve had more than one moment of feeling like an utter failure.
But in both farming and parenting, the problem often points to the solution.
Cranky child? Give them food and rest. Stressed plant? Give it water and nutrients.
Observation is the greatest skill of any farmer or parent. Most of the time, if we take a few minutes to observe the situation, a solution will present itself. And that solution usually involves giving time and care.
While efficiency is important in any farm business, it’s not the be-all-end-all that we’re often led to believe. Our goal as parents and as farmers is to create a nourishing environment for all living beings, to nurture the soil and our own bodies and souls, and to enjoy ourselves along the way.
With that said, here are 3 unorthodox tips to increase efficiency on your family farm:
1. In the long run, it can be faster to do the “slower” thing. For example: instead of using the seeder, sow seeds by hand together.
Doing things slower together can avoid meltdowns by a child who’s wanting attention. Instead of moving at your normal pace, slow down to teach and move at the speed of your child.
2. Understand that feelings are as real as time — make space for them because they will take much more time to process if you get to meltdown status.
3. Make farming an option and not a chore. Allow it to be fun and it becomes something your child may ask to do together.
With fun in mind, have toys nearby as an option for your child. For example: legos next to the seeding room, or their own shovel and toy dump truck outside next to the finished compost pile.
I asked farming parents on Instagram how they balance farming and parenting, and they shared more great tips:
4. Schedule family time at the end of the day to reconnect to each other. Go for a walk, play a game, or read stories.
5. Create a “feelings tree” to help talk about your feelings. Each branch represents an emotion, and each family member has a monkey they can move around the branches throughout the day.
6. Pack a kit with snacks, water, toys, diapers, etc anytime you all go to the fields to minimize trips back to the house. This helps reduce transitions from house to farm fields, which can be hard on toddlers.
7. Use the rule of 10 minutes to set expectations for uninterrupted work time. Here’s how it works: for every year old your child is, that equals 10 minutes of independent activity.
For example: with a 2 year old you should be able to get 20 minutes of work done; with a 6 year old, you should be able to count on an hour before they need your attention again. Of course, this will vary by the day and child, but it’s a great tool for you as you’re planning your work time.
You can see their tips — and a trick on how to make things look way faster — on Instagram.
We don’t have expectations that our son becomes a farmer.
Our goal is simply that he loves the land, understands how we’re connected to and a part of nature, and that his childhood memories are happy ones of us growing together.
Whatever he ends up choosing to do for work, we hope it fills him with nourishment.
Until then, we give him ways to help and grow himself. For more tips on farming with your family, check out this post: Dirty Hands, Happy Hearts: Growing With Kids In The Garden.
Are you a farmer and a parent? Leave your tips for growing alongside children in the comments below.