Farmers, ranchers needed for national study about balancing work and children

Farm family with chicken

All parents know how challenging it is to balance children and work, especially when childcare options are limited. One group of parents in particular, farm and ranch parents, are being sought for a national study into their experiences.

Researchers at the National Farm Medicine Center and The Ohio State University are looking to better understand farm and ranch families operating in rural, urban, or suburban areas and their lived realities of balancing children and work.

“Childcare challenges (paid or unpaid) can have consequences for the farm business, the safety of children, and the well-being of the family as a whole,” said Shoshanah Inwood, rural sociologist and associate professor of community, food and economic development at Ohio State. “This is the first nationwide comprehensive survey focused on the realities of farmers and ranchers raising children.”

Because this is a Farm Bill year, the survey is especially timely, said Florence Becot, 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. “Some farm organizations and policy makers are debating if affordable childcare in rural areas should become a priority,” she said.

The survey asks farmers not only about their childcare 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.

Anyone who plays a role in the operation of a farm or ranch and who is the primary caregiver of children currently under the age of 18, can complete the online survey. Being a primary caregiver can take many forms, including being biological, adoptive, foster, or stepparents, grandparents, aunts and/or uncles, etc. Primary caregiving of the children can be done alone or with a partner.

The survey, which should take 15-20 minutes to complete, can be found at Survey participants can also enter a raffle to win one of fifty $50 checks. For questions or to request a paper survey, contact Florence Becot at 715-389-9379 or 

“We recognize that farmers often feel over-surveyed and have limited time and energy this time of year,” said Becot. “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.“

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 childcare needs of farm and ranch families, despite evidence of childcare 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 childcare.”

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.

Sherrie R. Whaley
For more information, contact: 

Florence Becot