How a Teen Who Works on His Dad’s Farm Does Money
by Leah Smith
My cousin, Nic Harnois, is a 17-year-old who works for his dad on their poultry farm in Michigan. Nic and I share similar backgrounds: Our parents both moved to a rural area to escape the crime, cramped living situations, and depleted job market of Detroit. Like Nic, I raised livestock to show at the county fair, but after I graduated high school, I was tired of the monotony of country living. But Nic has been happy to stay. I decided to pick his brain about how he does money as a teenage farmer, and how this has influenced his future plans.
What are you up to now in terms of farming? Are you helping to sell poultry and eggs at the farmer’s market? If you are selling products, do you get some of the money, or does it just go to your parents?
We are starting to bring the newer birds in and the older ones out. We are running between 2,000 and 3,000 birds. Dad is taking care of market and sales, and I take care of the farm while he’s at market. From his sales, he pays me and my friend to work for him. I used to help with the market a lot. I personally don’t like it, because I don’t like being around a lot of people, so that’s why I like staying at the farm more.
What types of animals do you have right now?
We have chickens, ducks, geese, two pigs, and our cat. Every year, I take my two pigs, and auction them off.
How much do you earn?
I get about eight hundred to a thousand bucks a pair.
Do you initially buy the piglets from someone?
Yeah, my dad’s friend. They cost $50 each, and I raise them from when they are two weeks old.
Wow, that’s small! When do you take them to auction?
When they are around four, or five months.
How much money do you spend on them?
Their food costs $700. I get a $200 profit at the auction.
Do you like raising livestock?
I do like raising livestock. I like that raising the pigs pays for itself and I get some extra.
Is it something you’d continue doing as an adult?
I think I will continue it, just not as my main career. I hopefully want to go to community college and finish my autos degree to be a mechanic with a farm on the side, but that’s not a definite yet. I have other job areas I want to pursue, and having a larger farm prevents me from doing that, simply because there is not enough time.
Have you heard about the urban farming stuff going on in Detroit? You know, how people are turning the land of abandoned city neighborhoods back into farmland. What do you think about that? Would it compel you to move to Detroit?
My uncle does that. It’s not only farming that’s keeping me in the countryside. It’s the woods, and being secluded, but I agree that its a good use for unused land in Detroit.
So no plans to move to the city?
I think its mostly that I was raised with farms, and old time farmers. All of my friends are farmers, so to me, it’s a lifestyle that I was raised on. Cities are too compact for me. I like having bigger machinery and I like having my truck. I feel like if I was in the city, I wouldn’t have that. Not to mention, I’d have no trees or fields to have bonfires in, so I don’t think I’d survive mentally in a city.
Are your other friends farmers? Do they also work their farm for money?
All of them?
Wow, that’s some great work ethic! Do you think that it’s still possible to fully support yourself through farming? Are the farming families in your town doing ok?
They are making enough to support the family and get by, but just barely, because industrial farms are taking over with the help of supermarkets.
But, knowing this, do you still think it’s valuable to be a small farmer, and pass the career down to future generations?
It’s something that is needed to sustain life and should be a known fact by everyone. I think to a certain degree, everyone should know something about how to raise food well, and animals humanely.
But do you want to go into auto mechanics because you know you can’t make that much money farming?
For me its that I have a love for cars. The income is a factor, but not the main reason.
I know you’ve been helping your dad with the farm nearly your whole life, but were you always getting money for it?
Since three years ago, I’ve been getting paid about nine bucks an hour. I started working more on the farm then, and I needed money so that I could get a car. My dad hired one of my friends, too. There’s no set limit of hours, it’s just whenever I can work. I save what I can, and everything else goes to gas and parts for my truck. I currently don’t have a bank account set up, but am planning on setting one up.
Did you buy the truck with money from the farm work?
Wow, awesome! What kind of truck is it? How much did it cost?
It’s a 96 GMC Yukon. I paid $2,000. It took me a couple of years to save money for it.
Wow, I couldn’t afford anything like that when I was in high school. How do you feel about buying it yourself? Are you glad that you did it on your own, or do you wish you had more help?
No, I enjoy doing that more independently.
Do you think the work cuts a lot into your free time? Like, would you rather be out with friends or something than on the farm?
Sometimes, yeah. Once, my friend invited me for dinner but I missed it, because I was at work late.
What are your specific duties on the farm?
Clean coops, plow, go buy straw, pick up feed, feed and water animals, stuff like that. Because of liability insurance, my friends can’t operate the machinery so that’s why I drive it.
If you could buy anything right now — money is no option — what would it be? How would you plan your future (dream job? travel? etc.) if money wasn’t important?
I’d probably buy a brand new truck, new farm machinery, and a bulldozer. Why? I don’t know. I just have always wanted one I guess, and my dream job is working for a construction company as a mechanic.
Keep on truckin’ Nic, and thanks so much for the interview!
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