I have always wondered about making my kids work on the farm. I didn't grow up on the farm so I don't have a first hand example to follow. The dairy farmers who have all the members of the family working long hours, and the families where children have farm chores in the hours before dawn are foreign to me. (But I am also fascinated by this) One alpaca family we know has a single mom at the helm. Her teenage boys lay around on the couch while mom slaves in the fields. That doesn't seem right. Another family requires the children to have some contact with the animals each day. That sounds pretty good, but with 4 kids, I have too many other things to keep track of.
Having a farm is an excellent opportunity for us to instill a good work ethic in our children. They should work and learn the value in it. At the same time, I can't see myself making them do all the work. I don't want them to resent the farm where they are growing up. Plus we do have a full time farm manager, and I need to keep him! (For me, over 40 alpacas required a paid employee if I was ever to be able to leave the farm, even to go to the grocery store once a week.)
One example I love is a family with twin boys who have been required to help their parents on their alpaca farm in whatever way was age appropriate since they were about 5. The father of this family and I were talking this summer and he gave me an idea. His boys were working for $5/hour so they could buy a wii and games for it. The lightbulb went off in my head, and I put my son to work for $5/hour. He usually makes $35-45/week. Quite the builder, he buys legos. (You wouldn't believe the places we find tiny legos and arms of lego stormtoopers.)
This summer my seven-year-old boy has gotten to know the majority of our alpacas. He is perfecting the art of watering tummies of hot alpacas, and learning the ropes on how we run them out to graze at night and inside to sit in front of the fans during the day. To keep him from getting bored we let him do lots of different tasks rather than having to fill up 15+ water buckets day after day. He feeds, scoops poop, and helps herd the alpacas. On the weekends, he is even instructing his 5 year-old sisters how to do some of the farmwork. He is our resident expert on how to administer electrolytes. The above picture is of him and Caesar playing one summer evening.
Those of you who were raised on a farm or who are raising kids now on a farm, please leave some comments/thoughts/suggestions! How many chores are enough or too many? Should they be forced to do work or be paid? On a related note, should allowance be given or earned? I look forward to hearing from you.