At 7:01 this morning, my brown-eyed 10-year-old raced back into the porch. She kicked off her Muck Boots, and grabbed her tennis shoes. As the bus came roaring down the gravel road toward our old farmhouse, she slid her school bag over her shoulder while simultaneously dusting corn and alfalfa off her cute jean leggings. With a smile and a wave, I sent her to the bus, holding the farm dog by the collar so she didn’t attempt to ride along to school.

Such is the way our mornings play out during the school year. That’s right, I am not the mom who lets the kids sleep until the very last moments that allow them to jump into their clothes and get on the bus; I AM the mom who makes them wake early to do farm chores.

We are the parents who did as our own, and theirs before, and the generations that trace back to our beginnings in the heartland. We are less than one percent of Americans, a small group that is fading quickly, but we are hearty and tough. And, the lessons on the farm will help our kids grow up to be successful, because:

1. Farm kids work. And they work hard. From early rising to feed the livestock, to evening chores and work that must be done before the family goes to bed, they are expected to play their role in taking care of the family business. Each farm family identifies what must be done, and assigns the jobs to those who are age appropriate to handle the tasks. Farm kids do not have to wonder where they fit in; they know what is required of them from early on. And as they grow up, they usually demonstrate those leadership and teamwork skills wherever they go.

2. Farm kids understand life requires them to be flexible. We recently loaded up to head to a fun event at the county fair. As we crested the hill, we noticed our cattle were out in the road and frolicking in the corn field nearby. Without a word, my husband turned the car around and we quickly organized ourselves to put the cattle back in and fix the fence. After the work was done, we tidied up and salvaged what we could of the evening. There were some disappointed expressions, but a quiet understanding that our life is unpredictable, and that we make the most of the time when things go according to hopes and plans. As these kids grow up, they will appreciate the importance of a well-planned and executed mission, but also be able to adapt and grow with the surprises of life that will come along.

3. Farm kids know life is a gift and not to be taken for granted. At a young age, farm kids experience the full circle of life. They may experience the loss of a newborn animal that didn’t survive birth. They will witness the unexpected death of an animal in the prime of life. And they will certainly experience the full force of Mother Nature’s fury that can destroy a season’s worth of work in a heartbeat, while corn is pummeled into the earth. The good, bad, and ugly in this will open their hearts to putting passion and effort into the things they care about, and also lead them to minister to one another in seasons of loss and ache. The trials of life will make them stronger while also allowing them to be open to appreciating the fragility and wonder that is the privilege of this life.

Tonight when the yellow bus rolls back into the drive, the kids will exit and throw down their bags. They will change into work clothes and grab a snack before heading out into the known and unknown that is late summer in Nebraska. While the cows and calves graze the land, and the corn rustles its leaves, these kids can hear and see how these moments will knit together into the strongest and surest of wear that will benefit them all their days.

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Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.