Government City Slickers and Those Hick Farmers

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I came across an absurd USA Today story from last week that I just couldn't let pass without reacting to. From the very first lines I struggled to keep my jaw from dislodging from my face and falling to the dirt.

Summertime can mean danger for children on farms.

An 18-year-old Amish man died from oxygen deprivation and his 14-year-old brother was injured last month as they worked in a neighbor's farm silo in Pennsylvania. Also last month, a Maryland man and his sons, 18 and 14, died of asphyxiation while working in a farm manure pit.

The federal government and safety groups are working to build awareness of farm hazards after a Labor Department decision to withdraw regulations that would have restricted children's work on farms.

The first thing that went through my mind is that EVERY day of the year can mean danger. Recently, one of my daughter's classmates was killed in a traffic accident trying to cross an intersection. A little over a year ago, another kid was killed when a truck hit his 4-wheeler.

There is an effort out there to scare the general public – a public that doesn't have the feintest clue about life outside the urban jungles – that farms are these dangerous, child killing places.

I grew up working on my family's farm. We are a fairly large operation farming over 6,500 acres for various purposes. We raise thousands of head of free range, pasture cattle. We grow wheat, sorghum, hay, corn, and oats. We are wholesalers of grain seed for other farmers to plant their crops.

Because my dad was in the Navy the only time I was able to work on the farm was during the summer. Each summer, I would travel to Texas to help my uncles and Pawpaw and earn a little extra money. It was tough work, but it instilled a sense of discipline, drive, and work ethics I probably wouldn't have had otherwise.

It was also fun.

I learned to drive at a young age. At just eight years old, I was sitting on my Pawpaw's lap and driving the little Massey-Ferguson or John Deere tractor through the fields rolling hay to dry. By 12, I was driving pickup trucks with trailers full of that hay from the fields to the our storage lots. I also helped grind feed, immunize the cattle, and help deliver calves that were in distress. I ensured that the cattle had plenty of food and water in the pastures. I labored HOURS and HOURS in the pee patch plucking black-eyed peas from their bushes that we would later have to shuck. THERE IS NOTHING IN LIFE WORSE THAN PICKING PEAS!!

It wasn't easy work and it wasn't as safe as working at McDonald's or Taco Bell working a cash register. One time, I was chased up a tree by a protective mother. My uncles got a good laugh at that one. Another time, I had my hand crushed by a bull that decided he no longer wanted me touching his horns. He pinned my hand between the fence and his horns.

Perhaps the most labor intensive thing I did over the summer was bailing and loading hay. In the 80's, we didn't have the loaders that we have today that automatically stacked all the hay in neat stacks without ever touching a bail. I would either walk along a truck with a giant hay elevator (essentially a ramp with spikes built into a chain that would grab the bales as we passed them and raise them to the bed of the truck) or I would be in the truck taking the bales off the elevator and stacking them on the bed. Each bale weighed about 60 pounds and seemed to gain weight as the day wore on.

The media and some morons in Congress want you to believe that our kids are dying exponentially on our nation's farms. These places are death traps and need to be regulated. No kid should have to work where death is certain and acceptable.

Reid Maki, director of social responsibility and fair labor standards for the National Consumers League, a non-profit economic and social-justice advocacy group, doesn't believe that farmers have the best interests of kids in mind when working their trade. According to the USA Today article, she thinks we simply need more “firm regulations.” This is the fix for all big government bureaucrats.

Her statements couldn't be further from the truth. My uncles and Pawpaw always emphasized safety. We wore gloves and other protective equipment. They always made sure I KNEW how to operate the equipment I was allowed to use and maintained vigilent oversight until they were comfortable. They always knew when I tried to cut corners. Because most of the these farms are family owned and run, the “child laborers” are generally sons, daughters and cousins.

Today, my 12 and 14 year old cousins work the farm the same way I did as a kid. My 18 and 20 year old cousins have doing it for years and now work full-time. Not a single person has ever been killed on our farm. No one has lost a finger, foot, or follical. Well, maybe we've lost a few follicles.

I'm appalled that the media, government bureaucrats, and “non-profits for social-justice” think they know better than we do about what farmlife is like. I would argue that were it not for our nation's farms, many of these kids wouldn't know the first thing about survival or providing for a family.

I learned more than just how to toss a bale of hay. I learned how to keep the equipment functional by greasing important parts. I learned how to change tires on a rim. I learned how to weld. I learned how to use my hands. I learned how to barter and make connections with people. I learned the value of a dollar and the work it takes to earn it. I learned how to maintain the soil and replace nutrients used up during cultivation of crops.

When I retire from the military, I want to get back into farming. Not sure if my wife would allow that, but we'll see. I enjoy working the fields and making them usable year after year. If we allow the Labor Department” to ban kids from working on farms or impose cost-prohibitive regulations on farmers the entire country will suffer.

How many of the figure heads know the first thing about farming other than what they've read in books or been taught in school? They need to get real and recognize that we do everything possible to keep our kids safe while also teaching them valuable life lessons. I learned those lessons growing up and now my kids are too. I'm proud of the reputation that Grisham Farms has in our community and the contributions we make.

I guess we can be thankful that so far this effort has failed. However, power grabbing liberals don't stop when they fail. They will start to find other ways to incrementally get what they want. And when they do, everyone will pay the price for it.


9 Responses to “Government City Slickers and Those Hick Farmers”

  1. 1


    Agree whole heartedly CJ, I spent summers at my grandparents rounding up cattle, at my mother’s relatives cutting tobacco and in my 20’s helping my Step Dad haul hay from the fields to the barn for his horses. When my job changed and I spent most of my time sitting on my butt in front of a computer and wasn’t needed for a few years moving hay I paid for it the next time I went. Farm kids half my age were tossing 40lb bales of hay to each other in a barn loft and making me feel like I was 60 when I was barely 40 but they weren’t mistreated or felt abused in any way shape or form. In fact they will probably live longer and have more skills than your average stay at home kid playing computer games and watching TV.

  2. 2

    Nan G

    I, too, agree, CJ.
    We never saw anyone hurt on our farm in central CA either.
    When an agenda needs a few anecdotals to back it up, as Obama’s anti-farming agenda did, it is simple to sift out a few horror stories from over a year or more in an entire country.
    And, as we all know, the liberal media is excellent at taking one or two stories and blowing them up into a PR campaign to stop welfare cuts, food stamp cuts, whatever.
    Obama used a child as a prop when he signed ObamaCare into law.
    Only much later was the child’s story vetted.
    A complete lie!
    And how often have we seen so-called average Joe’s and Jane’s in the media expressing their opinion only to find out later he or she was really an Operative and Donor from the Democrats?
    Too often.

  3. 3

    Brother Bob


    Great post, CJ!

    Sadly, as much as I enjoyed your post the one takeaway that is going to stick in me is the job title of that bureaucrat – “director of social responsibility and fair labor standards for the National Consumers League.”

    As someone who’s lived in DC for twelve years it never stops bugging me that the people like that think that the people who produce should be thankful for them and not the other way around.

  4. 4


    Well done CJ, I imagine the family farm is in the cross hairs of guys like Ted Turner who wants to own Montana and kick us country guys into the city. Becoming a farmer or rancher is a life long pursuit or occupation, it doesn’t happen overnight. Very few didn’t start as a child.

    I remember the sad story of a doctor who had his hobby farm and was discing with his son on his lap. The boy fell and was killed in the disc. Sounds terrible and it was, but wait a moment. This was a hobby farmer operating a piece of equipment he wasn’t that familiar with and possibly going too fast or without the reactions to stop in an instant. Familiarization with your equipment is important or else you can expect a disaster.

    Tractors, dozers, loaders, skiders, and all equipment is dangerous if you don’t have a few hundred hours logged. That sad statistic is still there and it is working against the family farm. Like getting killed in a silo, any old hand will tell you the atmosphere will not support life so why the hell go in there without breathing apparatus? Same old story, but before long they will be giving us instruction and directions like we have never operated a tractor or pulled a calf.

  5. 5


    I was raised as more of a ‘small town’ boy than a farm lad, although we had a small 24 acre farm after the war. I learned to drive on a tractor long before license age, climbed ladders (without 26 safety labels) to pick cherries and apples, milked cow (1), scraped scalded hogs, and hoed tomato fields —

    When I was a sophomore in high school, one of our farmer classmates was killed in a gruesome tractor accident. We mourned, planted a tree in his memory in front of the school, and exercised more caution in our own activities for a day or two.. And then went back to diving into the Erie Canal off the bridges!

    But we learned at a real young age, ‘stuff happens’, and we didn’t need a bureaucrat or bumper sticker to tell us so…..

  6. 6


    I’m going to disagree on “THERE IS NOTHING IN LIFE WORSE THAN PICKING PEAS!!” Picking Black Berries is far far far worse, think peas with barb wire. Ah the fun of summers.

  7. 8



    @erik thorne: Looks like he’s been called out, whomever it is. I tried registering for the site but it wouldn’t let me. I saw at the beginning he put “By CJ” but never gave a link and never refuted that he wasn’t the author.

  8. 9


    what took you so long to give us that jewel, I love it. my friends, my BEST FRIENDS, HAVE A FARM,
    AS FAR BACK as other generation of immigrants in the 1800, this farm has been GIVEN to the older son when one die, they know it and no one make a fuss to challenge that law made by the first GERMAN immigrant,
    if one never get close to a family of farmer, he or she has lost so much of that mentality
    which are full of WISDOM, I feel the deep knowledge they acquired so young from their ancestors down to
    their own added touch, I also feel so priviledge to have their liking me, because they just don’t spread their likeness to anyone whom they don’t know, and they invite me to their fall bounty, where they make the best home grown pumkin pies, the best of their own grown sukini jam gold as the metal itself, and they work and are being help by their brothers and sons as one unit, picking the hay at one place and then get their help for their own chore, it is so different to notice as oppose to big city living
    where I was raise, that to each his own, and don’t trust the neighbord mentality with good reason,
    because the big city are growing so fast and you see strange people wearing their sheets and looking at you as if you’re the stranger,
    give me MY now small town any time, and MY friends who work on their FARM AND SO PROUD TO BE THE OWNER of their pasture, of their old house heated by wood giving such a nice scent in the winter,
    they work so hard, and when I buy some of their product, it become a treasure for me also
    don’t expect me to waste any food I get from them, the beef is the best meat I ate, they are raise with love, and they have the same tenderness,