Filing Farm Office Memories
I remember my delight when Granny let me pencil in feed, fuel and a few other farm expenses on the large paper spreadsheet on her desk. Good thing for the No. 2 lead with Granny’s signature pencil top eraser – in case she found a mistake upon review of her young granddaughter’s work. But boy, I felt important seated in Granny’s rolling chair at her steel-framed desk in her farmhouse office.
As much as picking corn, baling straw and checking cattle threaded through my childhood memories, so did encounters with bookwork and office tasks. This exposure ranks one of the advantages of self-employment: The kids see their parents at work and even work alongside them at appropriate tasks. In fact, we frequently honor the “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” otherwise recognized in April.
The youngest generation on the farm gains exposure to a mass of paperwork and electronic record-keeping that has evolved in intensity for each generation of our farm family. They witness the concentration of this month’s 1099s, the necessity of government documents and the significance of thorough harvest records for insurance reporting. They learn work ethic, yet realize how to incorporate family time when work perpetually surrounds us. In fact, their day typically starts with a beeline to my home office to greet me and cuddle in my office chair.
Just ahead of Thanksgiving, my kids hopped off the bus at the farm and entered our new family farm office to find several desks installed that day. To my surprise, they acted more thrilled than a kid with a pedal tractor on a wide-open shop floor. They pretended to type on the computers and gather paper from the printer. Our daughter made imaginary copies with the copy machine, and our son used post-it notepads to record fake phone numbers.
“It’s cool to play office,” he says.
Not on days of splitting out shares of our farm’s self-applied crop protection products. Other than that, I like it, too.
As a kid, I probably put a few office supplies on my Christmas list. Tape dispensers were neat. A stapler in my stocking would have rated just fine. Now, I can’t do without electronic spreadsheets, my smartphone and constant internet access for farm bookwork. I have always enjoyed desks, office gadgets, desk-type duties and the potential organization that accompanied them. I inherited some of that intrigue. I remember Mom’s excitement when she received a roll-top oak desk for her 30th birthday. Unfortunately, its size now proves too small for the magnitude of farm books and impractical for the mandatory computer access.
Meanwhile, the kids find unique fun in this work environment, too, including at Granny’s farmhouse office of my childhood. With a nickel from Great Gramps’ center desk drawer, the kids can buy enough M&Ms from her retail-style candy dispenser to fill an old Altoids tin. Likewise, they fill their hearts with memories to file away and revisit another day.
[infobox alignment=”full” title=”About the Author”]Joanie Stiers, a wife and mother of two young kids, writes from her home office and works in her family’s farm office in West-Central Illinois.[/infobox]