I grew up working on our family farm. We started young and we started early. From what I can remember, my brothers began around the age of twelve, working on a celery crew. I started later, being a slacker, moving irrigation pipe. I don’t have any experience working on a livestock farm, but I imagine any sort of farm work tends to be on the get-up-early and work-long-hours side of things. It’s good for the soul, particularly for youngsters. It teaches you the value of an earned dollar, and it also makes you approach other jobs with a certain amount of peace (there’s not much more difficult than changing pipe in a field of mature cauliflower on a freezing, foggy morning, with cold mud and water filling your boots, your hands freezing and slipping on the heavy pipe, and the endless rows stretching in front of you like a Sisyphean field).
Anyway, the US Labor Department, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to outlaw minors working on farms. The department says the new regulations are needed in order to protect minors from dangerous work. There are so many things wrong with this idea that it makes me sputter. The last time I recall, the Constitution doesn’t say anything about the government being our nanny. Obviously, our government wants kids to grow up in hermetically sealed cocoons, safe, fat and happy in front of their televisions. I find it difficult to comprehend how dumb politicians and bureaucrats can be (of any party – I’m all about equality in relation to this topic). The dumbness increases at an exponential level in a direct correlation to how many of them you can cram into a conference room, complete with high-priced consultants burbling loftily about sustainability, economic development, and social justice (note: whenever you hear someone start talking about sustainability, make sure your wallet is still safely in your pocket).
If you want to read more about the situation, here’s a short article on it from Ag Alert (a publication of California Farm Bureau).
Apparently, the only way to get around the new regulations is if the parent owns the farm. I don’t own any farmland myself, but my kids sure are going to be working on grandpa’s farm when they get a bit older, regulations or no regulations.