What It Was Like For Me Growing Up On A Farm

A question was asked in an on-line forum if anyone ever worked while going to school. The following was my replay. It brought back a lot of good memories. I thought I would share these with you. Please feel free to comment on this if you would like.

I grew up on a farm. I had no brothers, just sisters. My dad raised vegetables and this was our only means for support. He was a very talented farmer and raised many crops on a 40 acre farm. Some people from the Western United States would think dad could have been a land baron because many of the farms in the Western United States are very large. In the North Eastern United States where we lived, there were large farms, but there were more farms that were approximately 40 acres.

When you raise vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, cabbage, rhubarb, watermelons, cantelopes, carrots, green beans, etc., it is a lot of hard, labor intensive work. Our work would start in April and go full force into October (dad worked through the winter in the hot house sorting through crops that were harvested before the hard frost and selling to food packagers, restaurants, and grocery stores for winter income). He also planted spring crops and then when those crops were harvested replanted that land for a fall crop. He always made sure that part of the land rested so that it would not be overly stripped from it's nutrients.

Our work included transplanting into fields, hoeing weeds, harvesting, sorting, packing vegetables, and selling at the main farmer's market. We would attend school, change into our work clothes when we arrived home, work until sunset and sometimes beyond on the farm, and then have house chores and homework after school and farm work. We were expected to do the best we could in school. There was no time to socialize outside of school with school friends.

We were paid by piece work. For example, we made $.15 for a peck of tomatoes and $1.00 for a bushes of green beans. These containers were not considered full unless they overflowed the container. We marked each container with our initials and were not paid for picking anything that was not considered full or had damaged crops. We very seldom were paid by the hour. If we were paid by the hour, any bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, or days off (ha ha) were deducted from our pay. By the time summer vacation was in full swing, it was not unusual to put in 16-18 hours per day. When the crops were ripe they had to be harvested. Everyone pitched in. This was back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

I kept some of my earning records in a scrap book and looked at them recently. I made somewhere around $300 per year on the farm. This was at the peak of my performance that included picking between 50 and 70 pecks of tomatoes per day. My parents supplied a school/church outfit, a work outfit, a pair of shoes, six pairs of socks, a pair of boots for winter, a winter coat, hat and gloves. Anything above this list we were supposed to supply on our own past the age of twelve. Before that time, anything we earned went in the bank.

We became very good at recycling clothing that others gave to us and loved to go to the charity stores. When I was in high school, a wonderful teacher taught me how to sew and then I taught my sisters. We used to look for material on sale for rock bottom prices. I made my own prom dress and also helped my sisters make their prom dresses. I became so good at sewing that I tackled men's suits, shirts, upholstery, etc.

This was a hard life sometimes but it was filled with fun and adventure. We learned at an early age that no one owed us anything. We learned that there were many ways to achieve a goal honestly. We worked alongside our parents. They set an example. You might say they walked the walk and did not just talk the talk. Many of the people we grew up with looked down on us, but we were being equipped with some wonderful principles that have served us throughout our life. It was such a blessing to do work hard and accomplish things without many resources. I think that making an honest living is good no matter how old you are. It gives one a sense of self-worth that most people never experience throughout their lives.

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