MARSHFIELD, Wis. — Farm and ranch parents know how challenging it can be to balance children and work, especially when child care options (paid or unpaid) are limited. These challenges can have consequences for the farm business, the safety of children, and the well-being of the family as a whole. To better understand farm and ranch families’ lived realities balancing children and work, researchers at the National Farm Medicine Center and The Ohio State University are asking farmers to share their experiences through a new national survey.
“We recognize that farmers often feel over-surveyed and have limited time and energy this time of year” said Florence Becot, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at the National Farm Medicine Center and affiliate of the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. “However, we also know that decisions are being made by local, state and national policymakers without a good grounding in the realities faced by actual farm families.”
The survey is especially timely, Becot said, because this is a Farm Bill year, and some farm organizations and policy makers are debating if affordable child care in rural areas should become a priority.
“This is the first nationwide comprehensive survey focused on the realities of farmers and ranchers raising children,” said Shoshanah Inwood, Ph.D., an associate professor at The Ohio State University. The survey asks farmers not only about their child care and schooling arrangements but also about how their decisions are connected to farm safety, the economic viability of their farm business, and their household finances.
“Over the years the U.S. Department of Agriculture has invested significant resources to recruit and retain the next generation of farmers,” Inwood said. “Yet these programs and resources rarely consider or take into account the child care needs of farm and ranch families, despite evidence of child care challenges dating back to the 1980s.”
As one Ohio farm parent told Becot and Inwood during a focus group last year: “If America wants farmers, we need help with child care.”
The survey will provide important information about what solutions could look like. The results of the survey will be available later in the year and will be shared with farmers, farm organizations, state agencies, and policy makers.
Farm and ranch families can respond to the survey online through this link: https://redcap.link/Survey2_
–National Farm Medicine Center