Anyone who grew up on a farm knows how true it is that farm kids so often work alongside their parents. A positive -- other than the free labor for the farm -- is the work ethic it can instill in youngsters.

That said, there are inherent dangers of young children working on farms and using farm machinery designed for adults. Consider this paragraph from a recent story on farm safety in The New York Times:

"(H)ere and on other family-operated farms, children as young as 5 grow up in the driver’s seat of machines many times their size, doing work that is deeply embedded in rural traditions but that also contributes to injuring thousands of children and teenagers every year and killing an estimated 100 more. Researchers say that the true number could be higher, because there are few standards on how to report and tally them all."

The Times highlighted a family in Wisconsin that operates a dairy farm. Their children help with the work. One of them, Cullen Schachtschneider, 6 years old, severely injured his left leg in an accident involving a loader (called a skid steer). Doctors saved his leg, but he's still undergoing physical therapy. And working again, too.

"Questioning whether a child should be riding in a tractor or playing in the barn is no easy thing in rural communities. Generations of farm children have woken before dawn to feed livestock and do chores that families call a sacrosanct part of life. It is a way of passing on lessons about hard work, responsibility and the pulse of the land that their children will some day take over ...

"'These kids help,' Cullen’s mother, Amanda Smith, said. 'They are our hired hands.'"

-- Phillip Tutor