As part of the government’s stimulus program, they are offering $500 million worth of grants to create and train "Green Jobs." I’m not sure how they define ‘green,’ but there is certainly one job description that should be at the top of the list if you’re looking for the purest form of green jobs: farming. It is a profession that recycles the land, the water, the air, the animals and the crops. Plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Farmers take dirt, rain, seeds and sun, and convert it to protein, carbs, oxygen, minerals and vitamins essential to life on our planet.
Coincidentally, there is high-level discussion concerning the safety of children on the farm which itself is a controversial subject. The chasm is between two cultures and how they define "dangerous."
Take firearms, for instance. The outdoor/rural side believes firearms are for hunting. The suburban/urban side thinks firearms are handguns whose primary uses are self-protection and/or armed robbery.
Pocket knives are an essential tool to those who work outdoors. In the city, they are used to clean fingernails and are too dangerous to have in public schools.
Driving a vehicle, be it a 4-wheeler, tractor or grain truck usually in a confined area (on the farm), allows a young person to be more useful. To a city kid, getting his permit at 15 allows him to get to school and hang out with his friends. City streets and traffic make driving dangerous. Fifteen years old is soon enough for them.
With Uncle Sam 1) wanting to put money into green jobs, 2) acknowledging farming is the greenest job there is and 3) concerned about farm kids’ safety, let me make a rational suggestion. How about we pour a justified portion of the $500 million into serious vocational training for farm kids, probably through FFA and Vo Ag. It could be voluntary, approved by parents and start as early as grade school in a light simulator except it emulates tractors, graders, ATVs, farm machinery and grain trucks. Finance a course in livestock handling and procedures.
In defense of farm and ranch parents, over a period of time, they teach their children the vocational skills needed on their particular operation. And Vo Ag classes do exist that teach many of the farm skills filling the gaps. But there is no doubt a healthy injection of funding from the "Green Jobs" $500 million fund would be far better spent on farm kids than on budding OSHA regulators, consultants and fly-by-night "Clean Energy" carpetbaggers. No one denies that farm kids can be put in harm’s way, but it would be much more effective if we as farmers and ranchers made a visible, tangible effort to teach them safety habits and rules. We can sure do it better than the usual urban ham-handed government agencies. Whadya think? Someone get the Department of Labor on the phone!
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.