Will My Children Be Allowed to Work on Our Farm?

Kevin & the kids feeding calves (note - these are not milk cows)

Last week I traveled to Washington, DC to testify before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade (Subcommittee of the House Committee on Small Business) on behalf of America’s farmers and ranchers about the Department of Labor’s proposed rules regarding Child Labor on farms and ranches.  The Department of Labor has proposed new rules that would restrict children under the age of 16 from working on a farm or ranch.  The list of tasks youth would not be allowed to do is astonishing to me.   For example, milking cows would not be allowed, and neither would building a fence.  One item that stood out to me was that no youth under the age of 16 would be allowed to use a tool that was powered by any source other than hand or foot power.  That would eliminate youth using flashlights, garden hoses (because hoses are powered by water) battery operated screwdrivers, etc.  When hearing this, my son asked me if that meant he no longer had to brush his teeth since his toothbrush was battery operated.  (Nice try Conner, you still have to brush your teeth and yes, you will use the battery powered toothbrush I bought you!) 

 The work my children willingly do on our farm is a valuable life lesson they can’t learn from reading a book in school or playing a video game.  It’s something they enjoy doing too. 

Kevin helping Conner close and secure the gates.

It is not dangerous; we don’t allow our children to do tasks that are not safe or not age appropriate.  Working beside our children is precious to Kevin and I, it builds memories we will all treasure forever and it’s about passing on our farming heritage to the next generation.  More importantly, it teaches our children that hard work is rewarded, that doing a job well is something to be proud of and it builds self esteem. 

Our daughter learned at the age of 3 ½ how to use a bolt, washer and nut to help build farrowing stalls for our hog barns.  She did this along side her dad in our machine shed.  She was never in danger, and the smile it brought to her face because she was helping dad farm was priceless.  The lessons she learned that day have taken her far.  She learned to never give up when she was turning the nut the wrong direction.  She learned to follow directions – the washer had to go on the bolt before the nut and if she forgot, she had to start over because the nut wouldn’t fit securely without the washer.  When she and Kevin had finished building the stalls, she was so proud.  She couldn’t wait to show me her work.  She showed every neighbor who stopped by the shed her work.  And each time she went inside the hog barns, she would proudly proclaim, “I helped dad build this.”  Since that day Rachelle has learned to do several other tasks on our farm.  And each task has taught her that determination is the key to success and that hard work pays off. 

To have the Department of Labor (DOL) think my child’s safety isn’t a priority to me is frustrating to say the least.  I love my children more than anything in this world; I would never put them in harm’s way.  I went to Washington, D.C. last week because farmers and ranchers need the DOL to understand they can not regulate with a one size fits all policy.  I left all of my work behind because I want to secure my children’s future on our family farm and to protect their freedom to farm. 

I want my children to be able to choose if they want to return to our family farm one day after they finish their education.  If our children are not allowed to work on our farm as they grow up, they will lose out on many lessons and skills, not to mention they will be robbed of the childhood my husband and I loved when we grew up.  Besides, how will our kids know if they want to come back to the farm if they are only allowed to work on it for two years before they leave for college?  I appreciate DOL’s intentions to keep children safe, but as a parent, no one cares more than I do about my children’s safety.  I’ve been protecting my kids since I carried them in my womb and I will continue to protect them, even if it means testifying before Congress to protect their freedom to grow up working on our family farm.   

About Chris Chinn

My husband, Kevin, and I are 5th generation farmers. We live on our family hog farm in Missouri with our two children. Our dream is that our children will have the opportunity be the 6th generation of farmers in our family.
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72 Responses to Will My Children Be Allowed to Work on Our Farm?

  1. Tremendous Chris~ So glad we have you as our VOICE in DC –
    Thanks for sharing ~ Worth a repost!!!

  2. Well said, Chris! I’ll be sharing your link with my friends, too.

  3. You have absolutely nailed our concerns here, Chris. Thank you SO MUCH! I certainly hope Washington got the message.

  4. Katie Pinke says:

    Thank you Chris. Farm life teaches hard work like no other I know. It instill values that all children need! I am a proud 5th generation farmer’s daughter and granddaughter reading this blog post and sharing with our ND Dept of Ag team this morning. Plus I’ll be sharing in social media. Your testimony was powerful also. Thanks again.

  5. Michelle says:

    Bravo Chris, Thanks for speaking for my family farm in such a calm, positive, educated voice!

  6. Maddee says:

    One the best blogs I have seen on this topic! Thank you for taking the time to share about your experience! Keep those kids working hard, and learning the more valuable lessons in life.

  7. Linda Bush says:

    You did a great job Chris and was glad to see you representing us in DC. Keep up the good work!

  8. Edie says:

    Nice work. You said it very well.

  9. Marion says:

    Awesome job representing the farming families out there across this great nation of ours.

  10. Pingback: Did You Grow Up Working–Working in Agriculture? « Under the Crown of Agriculture

  11. “I left all of my work behind because I want to secure my children’s future on our family farm and to protect their freedom to farm. ”

    From someone who is planning to come back to the family farm, thank you for being a part of something bigger than yourself! While standing up for your kids, you were standing up for hundreds of thousands of other children and children that have yet to be born as well.

  12. Tina says:

    Excellent! This is such an important issue! We are getting ready to buy some calves for our daughter to feed out and she is only 14. If DOL gets their way she wouldn’t be able to do that. Thank you for speaking for us! You did great!

    • Chris Chinn says:

      Your welcome Tina. Hopefully DOL will take a hard look at this proposal and see the many flaws in it. I hope your daughter learns a lot with her calves, our kids love working with theirs.

  13. Jim Dolezal says:

    The Department of Labor shows it’s true ignorance in introducing such a ridiculas set of rules and regulations. I grew up on a family farm in Iowa, and would not trade my childhood there growing up for anything. I gained knowledge, experience, and work ethics from a young age on. I agree on making a work environment for children safe, but there is always a certain amount of risk in almost any type of work that has physical use. There are young people working in fast food, is the DOL going to regulate that just in case someone drops a hamburger on their foot and needs medical attention? I hope your voice can be heard, and protect some of the freedoms, and education we have left before it is destroyed by some idiots that have probably never seen a farm attempt to administrate regulations.

  14. Theo says:

    Awesome. Thanks for speaking out. We raised our 3 sons on the farm. Can’t imagine how they would of turned out living in the city or even our small town. Best place in the world to raise kids. God Bless you and your family. The boys and I had to take over 30 yrs ago tomorrow when my husband had a massive heart attack- So glad we were on the farm. We’ll be celebrating tomorrow as God has granted us these last 30 yrs with him and we’re still on the farm, too.

    • Chris Chinn says:

      I’m sure you cherish each of those memories from the days of your sons working on the farm with you and your husband. Thanks for reading and for helping by sharing your story of determination!

  15. joycefleming says:

    We don’t have the same problem now that we did even 20 years ago. Dr. Rivara found in 1997 we had only about 104 kids deaths per year on the farm. Studies show that roughtly 3/4 are not work related but young children who wander out into the workplace, kids riding a tractor, or similar non work exposure. And research has shown that implementing the North American Guidelines for Childrens’ Agricultural Tasks would reduce child fatalities by about 60%, so the number of deaths is getting pretty small. We see over 4,000 teens die each year in car accidents. Should we outlaw cars?
    And, laws need to be efficiently enforceable to be worth it in my opionion. So are we going to have a continual law enforcement prescence on the farm because someone might do something on a Washington list?
    As a farmer, I think there are way too many advantages working on a farm with pretty small risks of work related deaths to kids in 2012. As a nurse, I would love to prevent each one. I don’t think this law will be any help.
    I think it will instead cost money and cause problems that aren’t needed.

  16. Ryan Goodman says:

    Thank you Chris for sharing your story on behalf of American Farm Families.

  17. Awesome job – you rocked DC. Very well-spoken and organized. We’re glad to have you on our side!

  18. Cari says:

    Do they have a decision timeline yet? I know they received tens of thousands of comments on their website!
    Thanks for doing your part!

  19. Wendy Perry says:

    Great job Chris! What this country needs is MORE children working on farms…learning the work ethics of farmers… I grew up on/around farms and somehow I’ve managed to live to be 53yo to tell about it…. just one MORE example of ‘Gvument Gone Wild’…. what can we tell our friends to do to be heard out here about this absurdity?!?

  20. The Queen says:

    YOU Nailed it, Chris!!! We’ve been watching this in rural Kansas also and are apalled that our D.C. “friends” are attemping to sabatoge the US Farmer in yet another way. Thank you for being our voice in D.C. and if you ever need a cheerleader, I’m your man…woman!!! 😉

    PS May I reblog this, please?

  21. James Wilkes says:

    I had not heard about this latest assault on parental authority. Thank you for voicing the common sense that all of us living out here on farms understand. My wife and I moved to a farm six years ago, and while I still work full time (college professor), we are building a nice family farm business that is the best educator I have every had … including all of my PhD work in computer science. It also happens to be educating my children while we live life on the farm.

  22. Thank you so much for representing us. I posted comments during their comment period but don’t know how much it will help. I also want my kids to be able to help on the farm and enjoy it as much as we do. My daughter is only 2 and rides horse while we assist her and goes to the pasture and loves being in the barn. Thanks again, I really hope this doesn’t pass. It would kill family farms and our way of life.
    Jackie in SD

  23. Kyle Hudson says:

    Dear sir. My name is Kyle Hudson. I am a state trooper I also grew up on a farm. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned work ethnic ,responsibility, and that a hard days work brings reward and pride in a job well done. I learned how build, use tools and operate machinery. My father always made sure I was safe and never force a life of you will work this farm on me. The department of labor needs to allow family owned businesses to educate and teach their children these lessons. Maybe we wouldn’t have the problems we have today if more parents took interest in their children like this. The man I am today is because of working shoulder to shoulder with my dad on our family farm

    Thank you
    Kyle hudson

  24. Awesome! Love the value of traditions within the family and what a wonderful way for children to learn real work ethics…I am all about getting back to the basics…seems like gov’t is trying to pry them all away from us…WHOHOHOOOO! keep on fighting!

  25. scott alexander says:

    thank you very much on behalf of our family which i am also 5th generation with a 6th learning and loving it. you are very valuable to the cause. thank you again and keep standing strong because we ar behind you 110%.

    Scott Alexander
    northwest ohio

  26. thevirtualrealityofstaci says:

    But I grew up seeing those jobs as chores of the household. What is next? Children not being allowed to work in a regular home doing chores? Mowing the lawn, doing dishes, cleaning up their own mess in the bathroom? While I disliked going to my dad’s place because I knew I would have to weed in the garden, muck out the sheep stalls and feed the chickens (I was scared of those birds) it also gave me a sense of responsibility.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    I just came across this on a friend’s facebook. I wonder when the government will come in and say that children don’t do chores in any home? I mean taking out the trash is dangerous because they have to put the can by the road and some driver COULD hit them. Caring for the family dog COULD lead to bites or scratches. Making the bed COULD lead to back injury. Let’s just regulate everything! It’s ridiculous. And I really hope no govt official reads this or there may be an amendment on a bill one day to stop chores and require parents to pay children an allowance just for being alive. BTW, how exactly would they plan to enforce this rule (the one about farming)? Would they require cameras on every farm to catch violations? Surprise inspections? Seems like a stupid rule to come up with when there is no way to enforce it anyway.

    • Chris Chinn says:

      I am not certain how they expect to enforce this rule, I’m sure inspections are part of it. Thank you for voicing your concerns, if you have time, please send your comments to your Congressmen so they know your concerns as well. We appreciate your support!

      • The Queen says:

        Unfortunately, Chris and Elizabeth, it won’t be difficult at all to enforce this what with the technology of today! Just yesterday, a national radio talk show mentioned the possible use of drones in Europe to “make sure that EU regulations” are upheld. They’re already in use on a trial basis in some countries. Another use besides regulatory insurance is for taxation purposes. That way, the government can’t miss ANY outbuildings that they might need to press famers for MORE taxes. Scary isn’t it? If they can count how many head of cattle are in the south pasture…and they can…they can do this too…count kids. Heaven forbid the kid might have a shovel in his hand. Dubious? Check out a BBC report. One of MANY on this subject: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16545333

  28. Ed says:

    Excellent job Chris. I sent similar comments to my Congressman regarding the 14 year old neighbor that I hired after he sought me out wanting to learn to do farm work. I only regret my comments were not nearly as eloquent as yours.

  29. Kelly Asmus says:

    Kelly Asmus,

    I have 3 children ages 19, 17, and 14. All of them help on farm and are great kids. My oldest went to college for diesel mechanic but after graduation in May, he is coming back to the family farm. Farming is his life. I have had more people ask to hire my children as they know how to work and are dependable, loyal and very responsible. Not only are they hard workers but good students in school. One of the high school teachers told me that my children will be one of the few that know what to do when they get out of school because of their work ethics. I wouldn’t of wanted any other life for my children then what they have had on the farm. I thank you for all you are doing for the rest of us and thank you for being our voice.

  30. Ann says:

    Well said. Although I did not grow up in agriculture, I did come to learn the value of work through working alongside my parents and grandparents. Tasks like building fence, mowing the lawn, and operating drills, saws and string trimmers were common. I came to know about agriculture upon entering my high school agriculture program. I learned VALUABLE life skills through my SAE work… work I would not be permitted to do under the DOL’s proposed changes.

    Thank you for being an articulate voice for agriculture.

    On another note, I shared your message with my Ag Communications and Ag Education classes. Our students greatly appreciated the work you did.

  31. Kim says:

    I am a third generation farm girl – we grew cotton, wheat and potatoes – as a kid I worked during the potato harvest – I worked on the grading belt starting at the age of 12- long hours, dusty and hot in Arizona. Before I was allowed to help with the potato harvest – I would drive my dad’s pickup truck along side him in the field as he started the irrigation pipes – I learned a lot about life and hard work and loved helping my dad. After my dad passed away, my brother kept farming for about10 year but it just wasn’t cost effective anymore – we were pouring more money into the farm than we were able to recover. My time on the farm was full of wonderful memories and I am so sad that my children will never know that kind of hard manual labor and the satisfaction of doing something really hard in support of the family. Thank you so much for your efforts to keep families working together on the farm.

  32. aloysious farquart says:

    Thanks in advance for the link… I’m sure I’ll trip over it on this page, somewhere, eventually.

  33. ScriptMan says:

    I am going to share a snippet of your post and give a link to your site from the V7n forum.
    This type of idiocy need be called out.

  34. I am not politician nor do I understand all that our Government does; However one should be able to work or be where ever one want, depriving one of such is violation of one freedom and his/hers constitutional rights. “No ifs buts or maybes”

  35. Lois Clark says:

    I grew up on a 200 acre farm, and did most of the chores listed in her article, plus others not mentioned. Born Dec. 2nd, in the winter time, with impassable roads to one neighbor a mile away, my Dad bundled me up and road me there on his mare, at six months, to show me off. Was that safe, maybe not, but my Mom, too afraid to ride a horse, allowed it, so she must have thought it was safe. And no, she was not afraid to stand up to my Dad. I would never give up any of those memories and would fight to the end, for the right to experience them. It made me who I am today. My most memorable one is milking, by hand, in the winter and milk icing up on the bottom of my hands when I milked the one short-teated Jersey we had at that time, as I was not good at stripping her with my thumb and fore finger like my Dad.did. I’ll bet none of these people making up the rules were farmers, and have no understanding of what that entails. And, if they were, I feel sorry for them and their experience. If you took a poll, I am sure that the percentages would be high, of kids who would disagree with this possible ruling. If this were children working in a “sweat factory” for hours, well…………….we can see the difference. Lois Clark
    1504 Burnam Rd., Chillicothe, MO, 64601

  36. Farmer says:


    I wonder if any of you intelligent enough to understand that kids job is to go to school? Nah, I don’t think so.

    If farmer can use extra hand, then he should hire someone without exploiting his child who should be doing homework, preparing himself for years of work he will be facing after graduation or he/she will end up being a dumbass as you are.

    • Chris Chinn says:

      Our children do go to school and I’m proud to say they make A’s. They work on our farm on weekends, school vacations and after school. They take their farm work ethic and apply it to their school work. They are very educated as are we. Please refrain from calling names and cursing on my blog in the future please.

    • Marty says:

      Farmer . blah blah blah . . . Think for a long time about what you are writing. . . . . . . do you want your children ( if you have children & grandchildren that you really care for and their future) to be happy and productive people of society. My grandparents, parents, myself and my children are educated and have lives that support agriculture. If we hire workers, which is not often for our family farm, it is above the minimum wage. So consider yourself the DumbASS.

    • joycefleming says:

      I have not met a farmer who was lacking in intelligience. There is an incredible amount of knowledge used throughout the day to provide animal care, repair machines, operate technological advancements, repair field tile and plumbing, welding, and I could go on and on. I spent many thousands of hours working on our family farm as did my own children. I am a registered nurse with a master’s degree and between my children and I we have nine college degrees. Working on the farm was a help in teaching science, math and even langueage skills as I completed 4-H books, demonstrations, and sold my market lambs to fund my college education.

    • Anna says:

      You obvisously don’t understand how much education most of us have that work and own farms…. we were able to get all that educations because we have a work ethic unlike most people!

    • Agvocate says:


      I wonder if any of you *are* intelligent enough to understand that *a* kids job is to go to school?<—-(Not a worded right for a question.) Nah, I don’t think so.

      If *a* farmer can *could not can* use *an* extra hand, then he should hire someone without exploiting his child who should be doing homework, *semi colon not a comma* preparing himself for years of work he will be facing after graduation *period* (run on sentence if you keep going.) or he/she will end up being a dumb*** as *like not as* you are." <—– Check my corrections. I am a senior in high school, I work on my family farm, and I corrected your grammar. Its funny how life works that way; isn't it?<–(proper way of expressing your first question.)

  37. Rob Jones says:

    Oh c’mon guys, everyone knows the federal government is far more capable of making decisions for us than we are for ourselves. Just kick back and quit pretending you have any rights and it’ll go much easier for you.

    Its getting hard to tell real news outta DC from professional comedy routines. Next they’ll want to form a union to represent the cattle guards.

  38. pbenjamins says:

    It is important for kids to be able to work with their parents while they are young. How else will we instill good work habits and good attitudes towards work? How else can they find an interest that may develop into a life long career? My career in technology was started by helping my dad work on cars. My son got his hard working habits from helping me on jobs in electronics. His career path is very different from mine as mine is from my dad’s, but the work habits and good attitudes toward work live on. If we follow the governments rules we will raise a generation of people unable and unwilling to work, dependent on others, dependent on handouts, dependent on others telling what to do and how to do it. Or perhaps that is what the government is really trying to do?

  39. Mary Beth says:

    When I went to college I had to leave the farm and move to the city. My first 2 years I had three accidents. Two of them were from riding my bicycle and both times I landed in the ER. The last accident was while working in fast food. It required 2 surgeries to fix the damage to my knee enough that I could walk. 28 years later I’m facing the possibility of a knee replacement.
    I think I would have been safer staying on the farm.

  40. cindy stolz says:

    As I look at my three successful daughters, all grown up, I take great pride in knowing I’ve been a part of their accomplishments. My husband and I never forced them to partake in any chore, instead they instictly followed use around the farm and proudly lent a hand, they tell us that they were the happiest kids to have a mom and dad who enjoyed being with them and not in a day care.

  41. Sandie Jordan says:

    I am totally in agreement with your stand and the replies.
    What our country needs is more work and our children need to know what work is!
    This is one more invasion of government into the private lives of its citizens.
    Thank you for standing up.
    Sandie Jordan

  42. Anna says:

    Thank you for speaking out for us that didn’t know anything about this crazy regulation! My daughter loves the farm and all the livestock that go with it! We show livestock in 4H and it would be terriable to put these restrictions on us! It wouldn’t hurt kids from town to come and experience the farm life!

  43. Jessica says:

    This is wonderful… I grew up on a farm from the time I was born until I went off to college. Attended 4-H for our animals and learned more there and living on the farm than any school could have taught me for sure about life and survival. I wouldn’t trade any of that and wish I could go back to farming. Thank you for speaking out about this – I am so astounded to think there would even be a regulation or that the government thinks they have any right to regulate family farming.

  44. Pingback: A Kid’s Perspective of Farm Work | chrischinn

  45. How many of the elected officials in Washington learned how to drive on a tractor? My late grandfather was a farmer and he and my dad cleared 40 acres to plant and hand built a house from the trees they cleared. My dad learned how to drive on a tractor and later an old Ford pickup.
    Do the folks in D.C. realize the agrarian calender used by our public school system is based on “farming”? This is also one of the main reasons kids today are allowed to get a drivers permit at 15 years old and license at 16. Kids needed to drive on the farm back in the day…perhaps they should focus on creating laws for cell phones and texting and allowing teens to drive on 6 lane interstates.
    I love your post. Keep up the good work. It’s the only way our voices can be heard!

  46. Pingback: Words Matter « Darin's Ramblings

  47. Agvocate says:

    You’re an inspiration to us all Chris! Keep up the good work!

  48. Joycefleming says:

    Best news yet- read the whole story please. When I started working in agricultural health and safety as a nurse 21 years ago, there were over 300 kids who died on American farms each year. This week the Journal Pediatrics reports a new study that shows that number in down to 84. Now, I am incredibly saddened for each of those families and would love to see the number at zero some time. However, this dramatic improvement is the best reason not to implement the proposed DOL changes. You see, just 12 of the 84 were working at the time. Furthermore, in just the 16-20 year old group, there are over 5,000 deahts annually in cars. If we want to save the lives of our children, it’s the cars that are the issue we need to be discussing.

  49. Pingback: Part 3: Getting agriculture to step up to the plate | Across the Back Fence

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