Back to School

Even here in rural Virginia, school has been in session over a month. The kids return now in early August.

When I was growing up here we started school the day after Labor Day. And because children were needed to help on the farms, if the tobacco crop was delayed, the start of school would be delayed.

But those days are over. These days it’s rare to see families working their farms together. In fact, it’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen any field laborers who weren’t seasonal workers from Mexico. Children just don’t work on farms the way they used to. That traditional summertime job is almost entirely a thing of the past.

Few probably remember that the school year was designed around the agricultural season. Children weren’t excused from school in the summer so they could have a “summer vacation.” They were excused because they were needed to do¬†farm work in the summer.

Of course I’d prefer that our agriculture here focus on something other than tobacco, which, although it is our heritage, fortunately has no future. But I’ll always treasure my memories of summers working in tobacco on my grandparents’ farm, with the rest of my large extended family.

These days the tobacco farmers grow a variety of tobacco that doesn’t have to be harvested by September. Most of my neighbors’ crops are still in the fields.

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And kids grow up never doing farm labor and never learning about farm life. We’ve outsourced those jobs.

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