Teaching Farm Kids the Value of Money

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, September 25, 1911:  Our old teacher Mr. Northrop came back to teach school today. I like him better than the substitute we had. Sold Mollie’s calf today. Weighed 145 lbs. Came to $10.87. Quite a vast sum to get all at once. Guess I’ll save it and get a watch or something as useful.

Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (June 15, 1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Mollie was a cow that Grandma owned. The calf was a little over a month old. (It was born on August 19.)

It’s uncanny—but this diary entry brings back strong memories of my own childhood.  It’s amazing how some child rearing practices go forward from one generation to the next.  . . .

My parents taught me about money by enabling me to become the owner of a cow. I’m now guessing that my father was taught the value of money by becoming the owner of a cow—just as his mother (Grandma) had before him.

When I was 9 or 10 I joined a 4-H club—and wanted to show a calf. My father said that I could buy a calf from him for $25. I only received a dollar a week allowance—and did not have anything close to $25. So he got an envelope out, labeled it “Sheryl’s calf”, and said that I should put half of my allowance into it each week. He then stuck the envelope in a cubby hole of his large roll-top desk.

Every week, I’d pull the envelope out and put two quarters into it. Occasionally I’d count the money to see how close I was to $25. Sometimes I’d ask my parents if I could exchange some of the quarters in the envelope for dollar bills. And then later I exchanged dollars for five- or ten-dollar bills.

The money accumulated and in less than a year I owned my own calf named Dolly. After Dolly grew into a cow, she had calves of her own. If it was a male calf, the calf was sold and I received the money. If it was a female calf it was mine—and the size of my personal herd grew.

15 thoughts on “Teaching Farm Kids the Value of Money

  1. What a great way to teach children about the value of money, the value of things they want to purchase, and about how much effort is needed to earn a living. Thanks for sharing your story, Sheryl!

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