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The Reese grandchildren often "help" with planting Christmas trees, but are still too young to do many tasks on the farm.

What jobs can farm kids do?

Sometimes, after long hours of work on our various farm endeavors, I think to myself, “When can the kids start doing some of this?”

With hay to bale, Christmas trees to trim and mow around, animals to feed, show sheep to wash, and eggs to gather, there is no shortage of jobs for the Reese family in the summer months. There are seven young Reese grandkids to date (including our two) and as they grow into able-bodied farm kids, there will be inevitable questions about what jobs are safe and age appropriate for them to take over.

Peggy Hall and Catharine Daniels, with Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program, wrote a recent article about the importance of this issue on Ohio’s farms. Here is an excerpt.

It’s hay and straw season in Ohio, which creates both a high need to employ youth on the farm and the challenging task of understanding farm youth labor laws.

For example, imagine Farmer X is getting ready to cut hay and has hired Youth Y to help, who is 14 years old. What exactly can Youth Y help with? Can he drive the tractor? Can he ride on the tractor? Does it make a difference whether Youth Y is the son, daughter or grandchild of Farmer X? Are there implications for allowing Youth X to perform farm work that he or she shouldn’t perform?

These questions are important to consider before hiring minors to work on your farm this summer.  In a series of blog posts, we will discuss various aspects of federal and state regulations applying to minors working on farms.  First up in this post is the issue of what type of work the law allows you to assign to youth workers on the farm.

Whose child?

The relationship of the minor you are hiring is important because the law treats your own children and grandchildren differently than non-related children working on your farm. If the minor you hire is your own child or grandchild, the law allows you to have the child do any type of job, including agricultural jobs considered “hazardous” under state and federal labor laws. Step children, adopted children, foster children and other children for whom you are the guardian are also exempt from the hazardous jobs regulation.

For other children, age matters

For other youth who are not your own child or grandchild, the type of work you may assign the child depends upon his or her age.   “Other children” includes strangers, students, neighborhood children, friends, nieces, nephews and any other relatives.  Only the older youth may perform “hazardous” farm work, as follows:

▪   16 and 17 year olds – May perform any type of farm job including agricultural jobs considered hazardous.

▪   14 and 15 year olds – May not perform any job listed as hazardous unless the child holds a 4-H or vocational agriculture certificate of completion for tractor operation or machine operation and the employer keeps a copy of the certificate on file with the minor employee’s record.

▪   12 and 13 year olds – May not  perform any job listed as hazardous; may only perform non-hazardous jobs if with written consent for employment from a parent or guardian or if the child is working on a farm that also employs the child’s parent or guardian.

▪   11 year olds and younger – May not perform hazardous jobs.  May only perform non-hazardous farm work if a parent or guardian gives written consent and if the child will be working on a farm where employees are exempt from minimum wage requirements.  A farm is exempt from minimum wage if the farm had 500 or fewer man-days of agricultural labor in the preceding calendar year; a man-day is any day where a worker performs at least one hour of agricultural labor.


As for my family, the children are already very willing helpers. But more often then not, despite their helpful intentions, their “help” actually makes the job take longer. For now, we have them focus on collecting the eggs. Even if a few get cracked in the process, the memories and experiences of doing jobs as a kid on a farm will last a lifetime and prepare them for most any job they choose as adults.

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