I grew up on a hog farm and my main job every day after school was feeding the sows. We had 120. Here I am in 1973 with my younger brother, Ross. Those sows weighed at least 300 pounds more than we did, and I bet that red Duroc was a mean one. The hair is standing up on her neck — and my neck as I write this. Our older sister, Molly, also worked on the operation. Dad was a full-time farmer — still is — and his kids had important responsibilities.
If there were safety regulations in the 1970s, I wasn’t aware of them. We all made it out of there alive, but I was bit by sows a few times. Those big, rangy Durocs didn’t like us messing with their babies in the pasture.
Recently, the Labor Department has proposed new rules that spell out the type of jobs kids can do on farms and the jobs they can’t. Children under 16 won’t be able to use power equipment. Children under 18 could not work at grain elevators, silos, feedlots, and livestock auctions. All children would be prohibited from working on tobacco farms. Manure pits and pesticides would be off limits for kids.
Why? Data shows that 15,000 children were injured in farms last year — in accidents on all-terrain vehicles, horses and tractors, and doing farm chores.
The Labor Department may exempt parents, grandparents, and other family members from some of the rules, but many farmers feel the regulations will disrupt the rural way of life and keep children from pursuing careers in agriculture.
What do you think?
I can see both sides. My siblings and I fed pigs and hoed weeds in the strawberry fields. All three of us have ag-related careers. My three kids also grew up with farm chores — feeding sheep, baling hay, loading hogs, and more. I’m not sure if any of them will have a career in agriculture, but they have the background if they choose to use it.
That being said, I do not think children should handle pesticides or the most dangerous farm equipment. Some jobs are not for kids — let’s use some common sense.
But feeding a few pigs never hurt anyone.
This was 1977 in Dad’s new sow barn. The broken arm was from gymnastics, not farm work.