Today is Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Right now, a lot of kids are at work with mom and dad, since homes have become schools, offices, gyms, restaurants, and more. When life is functioning as normal, a day like this is a wonderful chance for parents to show their children what they do and where they do it, but it’s not always practical to do on a regular basis and in some industries.
I, however, got to go to work with my dad all the time as a kiddo. If you don’t already know, I grew up on a farm. The house I was raised in, where my parents still live, is about a quarter-mile down the road from our main farm. That proximity meant I spent a lot of time at the shop, in the hay barn, or on equipment when I was young. Sometimes I was playing with my cousins or brother, and sometimes I was with my dad, watching and learning.
My dad, Mike, is part of the 5th generation of the farm. He was raised working on the farm, went to Oregon State, and then came back to the farm full time. He loves what he does and is so good at it. He is passionate about taking care of the land that has passed through generations and building the farm further. He enjoys seeing farming practices around the US and world (welcome to family vacations with an agriculture twist) and innovating what we are doing here.
Some of my earliest memories are in the cab of a tractor, sprayer, or harvest equipment, with Dad driving. Every time I was with him, I was learning about what was going on. It’s not necessarily that he was teaching me by way of “This is what is happening here…this does this…that makes this happen…” Sometimes that happened, but mostly I was just hangin’ out with my dad and absorbing little things here and there about agriculture and farming. As I’ve gotten older, I know that what I absorbed most was a deep appreciation for what farmers do and why.
As I got older, it stopped being “go to work with Dad day” and just became “go to work.” After 8th grade, I spent every summer working full-time on the farm. I walked and weeded fields, drove the harvest equipment, tilled the land with tractors, and washed and waxed equipment (yes, farmers legitimately wax some of their equipment. When it costs as much as it does, you keep it well taken care of). 90% of the skills were taught to me by my dad. My brother and uncle taught me a few, but it was mostly Dad. He would show me what to do, then patiently sit in the buddy seat as I tried it myself. If I did it wrong, he would gently correct me and encourage me as I did it again.
Honestly, he thinks I’m way better at most things than I do. He made it clear to me that he thought I would be a good farmer, if I wanted to be, and that he would enjoy me coming back to the farm full time as a career one day. But he never pressured me or made me feel like I was obligated to. Instead, he continued to teach me, give me responsibility, and set me up well for whatever it was I would choose to do.
Even though I love our farm and the life I grew up in, I knew that I didn’t want to be a full-time farmer. What I did want to do was teach about agriculture. So I went to Oregon State to be a high school agriculture teacher. A couple of weeks before my senior year, I changed my mind about working with high schoolers and instead found myself accepting a job in agriculture crop protection sales. Ag sales led me to ag marketing and ag communications. It also led me away from home. First to Illinois, then Washington, then California.
The work I’ve done since graduation has been interesting and fulfilling and has taught me so much. I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful people and have seen beautiful parts of the country. I have learned SO much about areas of agriculture that I’d never known (and have gone full ag nerd many times). Always lingering in the back of my mind, however, was my love of teaching about agriculture. Eventually, I couldn’t ignore that desire or the need to be back with my people.
I quit my job and moved back home. I am writing this 15-feet from the backdoor of that shop I grew up playing in. I am spending my days learning more about what I love so much, in hopes that I can help others understand it better.
And my dad? He joined Instagram and is following two accounts: my personal account and The Olive Branch. He tells everyone, even his doctor, that they should follow me. He visits me and gives me ideas for topics that I can share. He is still an encourager, a teacher, and will always be endlessly supportive of my dreams.
Even if you can’t take them to work every day, take them when you can. Teach them the skills you use at your job. I know every career doesn’t set itself up for it, or seem like something your kids would want to learn, but I bet they’d listen. They’d hear your interest and passion. And one day, they’ll recall how wonderful it was that you spent the time to pass that knowledge to them.