Growing up on our Grandparents’ farm in the Midwest, my four siblings and I were raised within shouting distance of 10 cousins and plenty of cows, chickens, pigs and horses. We were a scruffy bunch with few rules and lots of places to explore and find adventure. Of the many life lessons I learned on the farm, some of the most important were teamwork and sharing the workload.
In our younger, carefree days we built forts in the hayloft, sledded down the ramp by the hog house and climbed the apple trees by the chicken coops. We dreamed up all kinds of innovative (and very dangerous) games such as using the grain auger as a teeter-totter and jumping off of the hayloft platform into the bin of oats. It’s a miracle we didn’t break any bones!
Our Grandpa had a plan to teach us responsibility, teamwork and cooperation. When each of us turned 12 years old, Grandpa offered to buy us a Holstein calf. The calf would be your responsibility from day one. This included feeding the calf morning and night, calling the vet, paying the vet and feed bills and preparing for the 4-H show at the county fair. We soon learned that being able to rely on the older cousins’ experience and help was the best way to take great care of the incredible new animal in our life.
As we matured into our mid-teens, in addition to owning more animals, we also juggled the responsibility of high school and sports. So we learned to divvy up the farm workload and trusted that it would be done. Each person had to carry their own weight or there would be significant consequences to the health of our animals. This was a true test of trust and teamwork.
The years flew by. Before we knew it, we were preparing for college, selling our animals and going off in separate directions. To this day, we still get together to laugh and reminisce about the fun we had growing up on the farm. The bond we have with our cousins will be cherished forever.
I don’t know if Grandpa knew the impact he would have on each of us. His gift of a calf was the beginning of learning about hard work and responsibility. I learned many skills growing up on the farm. Working together and learning how to cooperate had a significant influence on my life and my career. These skills are with me today and I have Grandpa to thank for that.