Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Child Labor

About 12 years ago, I had the chance to travel to the Dominican Republic with a group of 29 other agriculturists. We visited a cigar factory, and were astounded to see children as young as 10 and 11 working along side their parents rolling cigars. After thinking it through, however, most of us remembered times that we worked with our parents - not in a factory, but certainly in a farming situation. We realized that "child labor" provided us with examples of how to work and gave us a chance to spend time with our parents. While I can't condone the type of sweatshop work we saw in Santo Domingo, my own experience of working with my parents was wonderful. That work is part of who I am today.

Over the last two days, our youngest daughter, Emma, went to work with me. Emma loves to help, and yesterday, she spent part of the morning rolling rounds of firewood to me to split. Today, I told her I'd pay her to help me load boxes of campfire wood for the farmer's markets, which added more motivation. Even at 5 (or nearly 6, as she reminded me), she started to anticipate the work that needed to be done. At one point, she started bringing armloads of kindling to add to the boxes all on her own. For a dad, she was amazing to watch.

I think that families that work together and enjoy each other's company begin to anticipate what needs to be done with little or no verbal communication. I remember working with my Dad that way, and it's incredibly rewarding to see that seed begin to germinate in my own kids. I am so fortunate to do work that can include them both in meaningful work. What a father's day gift!

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