Kendra Lawson doesn't have the typical schedule of a nine-year-old. With just a week of summer left, she spent her days working with her dad and mom on the farm and preparing her pigs to show at the state fair.
Here in central Missouri, the Lawson family raises cattle and pigs with a lot of help from Kendra. I met her at her house near Centralia, Mo., where she had just come back from helping her dad in the hay fields.
This summer there are some new additions to the farm family she was eager to show visitors. She lead the way to a large shed where a mama pig was sprawled out with her babies, clamoring to suckle.
“There are seven piglets,” Kendra said. “They were just born about a week ago. In a few weeks we’ll put them on feed. Then we’re going to cut their tales so the others don’t bite all over them. We have already cut their teeth and (given) them shots so they don’t get sick and bite each other. Then later on we’ll ear notch them and sell them.”
Just outside the shed, Kendra cares for a pig she plans to show in a 4-H competition, a boar used for breeding. All the way at the end of the shed, there’s a special pig.
“This is my butcher pig. We have hog roasts so we invite friends to come over... A hog roast means we butcher the pig and we eat him. It’s sad, but…” she said as she shrugged and giggled.
She told me this year was the first time her father, Brad, let her travel with him to take some of the cattle to the slaughterhouse. One trip to an out-of-state Tyson plant stands out to her.
“Once we took a lot of cattle there and it fed 80 families,” she said, smiling. It makes her feel good feeding other people, she said, “and it makes my dad feel really good.”
Kendra’s mom Rachel said the farming bug seemed to just click with her daughter.
“I was always a sports person,” Rachel said. “I played basketball and softball. I found out early on that was not Kendra’s hobby. So I think with what she’s learning from Brad, her dad, she’ll be able to take it on in life. She’s really interested and wants to do it.”
That’s not to say Rachel Lawson doesn’t occasionally still worry about her daughter working around the farmyard.
“She drives tractors as the pick-up hay bales. There is always a little fear that something’s going to happen…but she is a very responsible child for nine-years-old. So the fear just decreases more and more.”
I learned that Kendra is one of a kind in her class, too. Not many of her friends own animals that aren’t pets, just livestock.
“My friends don’t ask me much about my animals,” she said. “Once at school we played an animal game and they asked me some questions. They just asked me what my pigs ate. And I’m like, well, my dad hasn’t taught me that quite yet. Then they were like what do they do? And I’m like they roll in the mud.”
Now, Kendra said, not many of her friends want pigs.
Rachel said she’s not sure what her daughter will end up doing just yet. Right now, Kendra said she wants to be a veterinarian so she can continue caring for the animals.
But seeing Kendra in action around her farm, it’s not hard to see her taking an operation like this on someday.
“You know, it seems like the farming generation is dwindling,” Rachel said. “So hopefully she can keep it going in the future because we’re going to need all that we can. Farmland is going by the wayside and so are farms. Obviously it’s a food product that’s coming off farms so hopefully she takes it with her. We’ll see.”
Kendra’s dreams right now are about what she wants to do next summer. She made the trip to Iowa with her dad this year.
“Next year something I really want to do is go to Nebraska with him,” she said. “We’ll take cattle. I just want to see how it is because I’ve never been to Nebraska.”