We often fail to take the time to fully appreciate the most important crop raised on our farms. It isn’t corn, cotton, or even cows . . . it’s children. As it turns out, those children don’t have to be our own, as those employed on our dairies can learn the same valuable lessons as our own flesh and blood. Those hallmark life lessons can be the value of an honest day’s work and a purpose in one’s life.

A reader recently shared a private letter that she received from one of the many teenagers who learned valuable lessons at their “farm classroom.” As it turns out, that first job on the farm set this young man up for a lifetime of success.

“I started working on your farm as a 12-year-old. The work was very new to me. The lessons learned on the farm involved hard work and purpose. Hard work is easy to understand. I learned that there’s one way to get to the finish line — work,” wrote the former farm employee.

“The other lesson learned was purpose. Specifically, that there were animals and people who actually depended on the work that I was doing each day. Without the completed tasks, animals didn’t eat, drink, or may be forced to live in substandard conditions. To be honest, I don’t know when the lesson of purpose ‘clicked,’ but once I understood purpose, my work life became far more fulfilling.

“It’s that purpose that drives me today. I’ve made the decision to purchase the company where I’ve worked for the past nine years. This was a huge decision for me. That farm work set me up for this new endeavor. Just as your farm family and your animals depended on me as a teenager, our 125 employees and their families depend on our company for a living, and they require the very best of me. Thank you for providing these valuable life lessons to me as a teenager.”

This grateful soul was inspired to write this letter to his very first employer after reading a book on leadership. In putting pen to paper, he shared what many teenage farm workers would also say but may not take the time to write so eloquently: “Thank you for teaching me the value of an honest day’s work and a sense of purpose. Those valuable lessons have made me a better person.”