What would we do without a farmer in the family?

Farmers and ranchers aren't just farmers and ranchers. They're people with the skills to accomplish almost any task — even assembling complicated children's playthings.

Brandon Schlecht welds a frame on which to mount his daughter's obstacle course. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Last year, we got my daughter a basketball hoop for her birthday. Simple enough gift for a sports-crazy little girl. That is, simple enough until it came time to take it all out of the box.

The portable hoop came completely unassembled, with hundreds of parts and hardware to figure out. Reviews on the hoop were mixed, with many people saying the directions were inadequate.

And sure enough, one Sunday afternoon last year found my husband, his cousin and me puzzling over the instructions and searching for the right kind of tools for the job. At one point, I remember a particularly interesting part of the construction process in which my husband’s quite-tall cousin was standing on the fuel tank mounted on the back of the field pickup, using a sledgehammer to get a post in place while my husband a I balanced it on a chunk of old railroad tie.

And I remember thinking, how do people who don’t have farmers in their families get stuff like this done?

The thought has come up numerous more times in the past few weeks as we put up an obstacle course for the same daughter. My parents got her hooked on the competition show "American Ninja Warrior" a couple summers ago, and she’s become so proficient at monkey bars and climbing up the side of things that they wondered if they could get her an obstacle course of her own. Again, the reviews were mixed, particularly for people who didn’t have well-placed trees on which to mount the course. Various types of posts tended to bend in when the ratchet straps were tightened, making the course too saggy for high-flying fun.


“Do you think you can make it work?” my mom asked.

“Brandon says he’ll figure something out,” I replied. “He says it can’t be that hard.”

“That’s what your dad said, too,” Mom said.

It’s worth noting, of course, that my dad also is a farmer. And, so it seems, farmers tend to either know how to do many things or figure out ways to make them work. Plumbing? No problem. Electrical? Just give them a diagram. Mechanic work? Not enjoyable, but hand ‘em the wrench. Need something built? It can’t be that hard.

So, a few weeks ago, my husband and father-in-law planted a couple steel fence posts in our backyard. As the reviews suggested, the posts bent in as soon as we hooked up the course. Guidewires hooked from the posts to the ground would have been the easiest solution, but someone would have tripped over them eventually. So, they welded a huge post across the top of the other posts. And when that wasn’t sturdy enough, Brandon and I spent another day assembling a support mechanism out of other chunks of leftover posts and broken cattle panels.

Reanna Schlecht hugs her dad, Brandon, for building her obstacle course while little sister Kennedy plays on it in the background. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

The result is an apparatus that will provide our kids and their friends plenty of opportunities to act like monkeys. Someday, when they outgrow being ninja warriors — or when they move on to bigger courses — I will have the world’s most ridiculously overbuilt clothesline.

And again, I find myself thinking, how do people who don’t have farmers in their families get things like this done?


I’ve heard farmers, in hard times, saying things along the lines of, if I didn’t farm, what else could I do? In reality, I think the truth for most farmers is, if I didn’t farm, how could I narrow down the possibilities of what else I could do?

We expect that farmers and ranchers are knowledgeable in animal husbandry, agronomy and other operation-specific pursuits. But, depending on the day, they also are businesspeople, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, welders or carpenters, and probably a dozen other things.

Farmers are not just farmers; they are quite possibly the most overqualified people in society.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's content manager. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at or 701-595-0425.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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