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We have more to leave behind than the farm

Jenny Schlecht

When my older daughter was about 3, my parents showed her videos they took at a Beach Boys concert. Reanna was enchanted. She listened to my CD of the group so many times that it no longer works.

This is a kid growing up in North Dakota in the 21st century. She knows nothing about surfing. The only beach she knows of is Beach, N.D., where we make food and bathroom stops en route to Montana. And she certainly has no knowledge of T-birds, Deuce Coupes or any other of the classic cars in Beach Boys songs.

But she knows that she likes the rhythm, and she knows that she likes having something in common with her grandparents.

My dad helped me spring for tickets to take my little girl to The Beach Boys concert in Minot, N.D., in late September. When you're a fan of a group that has been playing since the early 1960s, you never know when you'll have your last chance to see them. So, I took a first-grader to a concert of a group that has been touring since my parents were in diapers. It's a funny thing to listen to a septuagenarian sing about "when I grow up to be a man" while a 6-year-old bobs along.

Reanna and I had a good time at the concert and telling my parents about it a couple nights later. And it got me thinking about the legacy we leave for the generations that come after us.

So often in agriculture, people talk about making sure the farm survives to the next generation and about wanting their children to take over. I understand the sentiment. I am the daughter of a farmer and rancher who is the son of a farmer who was the son of a farmer. My husband and his father farm and ranch on land in their family for several generations, too.

But as my kids get older, I want to be cognizant of the fact that they may or may not want to return to the farm. Kennedy, 2, is too young to have any career aspirations and has a strange, existential crisis regarding the thought of "getting big." Reanna, however, says she wants to be a farmer — at least on days when she doesn't want to be a doctor or a veterinarian or "write stuff like Mom."

Maybe she will want to farm. If she does, I'll encourage her to further her education in some way that would help her both on the farm and potentially off, just in case, like accounting or agronomy or business. I'll be honest with her about the good times but also about the tough times and the struggles and stress.

But if neither of the girls want to farm or ranch, I know there are plenty of other things they'll take away from their parents and grandparents.

They've both got goofy senses of humor that can be attributed to any number of relatives. Reanna is developing a love of sports, just like my husband, my father-in-law, my father and me. They both are starting to understand the importance of a hard day's work. They like to read and are never-endingly curious. Reanna works hard in school and at least tries to pay attention at church.

Farming and ranching have been important parts of our families. But they aren't the only things. We all are people of varying interests, and not having our children go into the same career field would not be the end of the world.

Maybe our girls will follow in their families' footsteps and work in agriculture. Or maybe they won't. I'm OK with either, so long as they're satisfied with what they're doing.

In any case, we'll always have The Beach Boys.

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