The Combine Kid - Family Life on the Ranch
Katelyn Dynneson Larson believes that showing children joy in everyday life on a farm or ranch means the child will want to return to the ranch later in life. She has firsthand experience in that. “I went to Montana State University but didn’t plan on returning to the ranch. There is something about agriculture that draws you in. I found my way back to the family ranch in Sidney, Montana,” said the fifth-generation rancher. Katelyn currently works with her husband on her family’s place, where they grow dryland small grains and hay, irrigated corn and hay, and have a commercial cow-calf ranch and a backgrounding feedlot. She explains that backgrounding involves feeding newly weaned calves until they weigh 850-900 pounds and then sending them to a finishing lot before they go to the processor.
The Dynnesons are indeed a family business. Katelynn’s sister runs the feed truck while Katelyn takes care of cattle health, and their parents, Keith and Tammy, are also involved. Her husband, Russell, helps on her family’s farm as well as his own family’s place. “Our cattle in the feedlot get great care,” said Katelyn. “We keep a close eye on them to ensure they are healthy. They have a more well-rounded diet than most humans and always have clean water and a dry place to lie. They have a posh life.”
Two-and-a-half-year-old Connor helps with chores as much as he is able. The towhead loves every part of the farm and ranch. He loves the cows, tractors, and trucks which have surrounded him since he was born. “He comes with us to work every day,” Katelyn said. “He doesn’t go to daycare because we can tag team with my husband, his grandma, or auntie. He wants to be with whoever is running the coolest piece of equipment.” Amusingly, the youngster mimics with his toys what his parents do on the ranch.
He has been traveling around the ranch since birth in his car seat in the truck or side-by-side and he’s at an age now where he enjoys coming along for all the farm work. “Connor is a pro at taking ‘cab naps’ from the swather to the combine. As long as he has a few books and snacks, he can ride along with us all day,” said Katelyn. “This summer he spent time in every piece of equipment. He helped seed the crop, he was in the sprayer, he cut, raked, and baled hay, he helped combine the crop, and he’s getting really excited to ride in the corn chopper.” In addition, he is obsessed with checking the livestock’s water tanks. “Whenever we drive by a water tank, he insists that we check them to ensure they’re full,” said Katelyn. “I truly think that if he could reach the gas pedal on our vehicles, he’d be driving.”
The mom explained that she and Russell wanted to raise their son on the ranch because working in agriculture gives children a good work ethic. “They learn that things don’t come easily and are not free. If you want something, you need to work for it,” said Katelyn. “It teaches them valuable life lessons. We have good years, and we have bad years, but we get through them. We hope this raises him with a can-do attitude. People in agriculture are forever optimists.” She added that she also hopes that she and Russell can teach him to be a good steward of the land and care for what is around him. “Although we will support him no matter what path he chooses, we hope he will be the sixth generation and the generations that come after him.”
Having a child made the couple realize that they may not have been following strict safety protocols, but now they stress safety on the ranch. “It opened our eyes to what we could do differently,” said Katelyn. “There are many places we don’t take him it’s unsafe. He can stay in the pickup to stay out of the way. He’s learning to be aware of equipment. We’ve also taught him that cattle can be unpredictable, so he’s learned to respect them.” Katelyn wants other moms to know that what they grow on their ranch is healthy, whether it’s beef or GMO sweet corn. “We feed him what we grow. Our products are safe and healthy. Beef was his first food.”
She hopes her son will love the ranch as much as she and Russell do despite the occasional hard days, weeks, or seasons. “We show him those small joys of taking pellets (feed) to our heifers, watching a newborn calf struggle to stand and the special magic in watching crops grow,” Katelyn said. “If we can instill that magic in him, he’ll want to return.”
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