Last Child on the Farm
an unopened book–full of potential, surprise, and pleasure. And just like that
book beckons me to peek beneath its cover, the sight of that rich, dark earth
ready for planting beckons me to curl my feet into the freshly tilled layers
and feel its coolness between my toes.
on a dairy surrounded by Holstein dairy cows, an assortment of dogs, cats,
hamsters and the occasional jackrabbit my father found orphaned while cutting
alfalfa. For me, there was no more peaceful place on the planet than lying on a
bale of freshly bound hay, inhaling the heady aroma of alfalfa, while staring
up at a sky so blue it made my eyes squint.
I remember that first peach of the season. How my fingers sunk into the soft
flesh when I plucked it from the branch. With the first bite, peach juice made
race tracks down my arm. Nothing ever tasted as good. Like a piece of heaven to
my taste buds.
hand-me-downs. We canned most of our fruits and vegetables. Fresh, clean air
and the farm provided a plentiful playground. I scampered through fields and
hay barns. I cuddled newborn kittens with their eyes sealed shut. I roamed
sweltering orchards while my mother picked peaches.
from the milk tank after the cows were herded to the milking parlor, washed,
milked and turned back to the pasture. Milk came from an abundance of hard work
before it arrived at our table.
certainly kids raised in urban areas had experiences I didn’t, but the
difference is, back then the majority of kids who didn’t live on farms had
family or friends who did, and they had the opportunity to visit them. Richard
Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods,
makes this same comment in his book. He said that baby boomers may be the last
generation of Americans to share an intimate and familial attachment to the
land and water.
My husband and I bought land, planted an orchard from the ground up and
currently grow table olives. We raised our children on a farm, and I’ve worked
as a freelance photojournalist specializing in agriculture for the past 15
farming. Statistics show the U.S. farm population is dwindling, and 40 percent
of the farmers in this country are 55 or older. I see this every day when I’m
interviewing farmers, and I wonder who will raise our food when they’re gone?
What happens if today’s youth is not inspired to farm?
parents. Our children need to be inspired to farm. They need hands-on time with
agriculture. They need to see, touch, taste, smell and hear farming in all its
noisy, dirty, sweaty, smelly glory. Along with the hundreds of thousands of
college graduates going into medicine, law and business, we need equal numbers
of agriculture graduates ready, willing and eager to farm.
providing children, at a young age, with frequent exposure to farming. Children
need to know how food is produced, and they need to read books with agriculture
themes. Last Child in the Woods lists
100 actions parents can take to get children into nature. One of his
suggestions is to take them to U-Pick farms or join a local co-op where the
kids are involved from planting to harvesting. Every child should know the joy
of whiling away a warm summer afternoon in a barn, an owl snoozing in the
rafters and a litter of newborn kittens sandwiched between bales of hay.
has worked as a freelance photojournalist for 15 years, starting in parenting
magazines, then fly fishing and finally specializing in agriculture. Her latest
project is From the Farm to the Table series of children’s picture books with an
website at: www.kathycoatney.com
Books by Kathy Coatney
Four Quarts Makes a Gallon has been released and retitled.
On sale now
From the Farm to the Table Dairy.
New release in February 2014
From the Farm to the Table Almonds