May 24 2018 08:30 AM

Farm kids don't sleep in. Period.

My daughter, Cassie, almost 12, cares for a new heifer calf before school. Middle photo: Oldest son, Tyler, 14, feeds and cares for heifers out on pasture one Saturday afternoon. On the right, my youngest son, Jacob, almost 8, feeds and waters calves after school.

Our children certainly sleep more than their father or I did when we were their age. But during school breaks, my kids are still up by 7 a.m. Much earlier in summer months, as 4-H heifer show projects are waiting.

And during spring and winter breaks, I still make sure they are up. I just have to say his name and my oldest child’s feet hit the floor. He is 14 now and gets that from his father. My other two take a bit more work to get out of bed, but no worries, I'm persistent.

First things first, out the door they go — chores await. On this farm, animals eat first, and then we do. As my youngest son likes to say, "That's how we roll!"

I don't know how to explain it, but there is something about fresh air that gets you moving and ready for the day. And, there is something about getting up early that makes you want to go to bed early. I have friends whose kids stay up past midnight! Some of my kids' friends stay up later than our first shift employees start their day. Honestly, I have a difficult time wrapping my brain around that. I think it is crazy. Don't get me wrong, I had those days, but I certainly did not have them living under my parents’ roof.

The Bohnert kids are up early, and when I say it’s bedtime, they rarely argue. Truthfully, there are even times they are asleep before it’s their actual bedtime. Manual labor has a way of doing that to a person, and so does fresh air.

So, let's not apologize for our kids working hard. The saying, "work hard, sleep hard," is real. With the farm lifestyle that many of us have, this is a blessing that is reaped in so many avenues of our children’s lives.

Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.