Growing Together

by Jeanette Waite Bennett

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This family’s techniques for togetherness are as effective in the city as on the farm.

Kirt Schwieder says he’ll always remember a conversation he had with his dad while working together on their family farm.

Jack Schwieder, bishop of the Ammon Seventh Ward, was telling Kirt, 21, about a friend whose child had recently died. Kirt’s dad looked across the dusty fence they were fixing and said, “Son, if something like that ever happens to us, I just want you to know that I love you.”

The seven Schwieder children, ranging in age from 14 to 27, say family conversations like this take place because of the closeness they’ve harvested in working together on their hay, grain, and cattle ranch outside Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“Working together is what has helped me form relationships with my family members,” says Jay, 23. “The best part of farming has been the chance to work side by side with my dad and my brothers and sisters.”

Scott, 16, agrees. “When Dad is going up to the farm and asks if I want to go with him, I always want to.”

Bishop Schwieder says the communication that is necessary in working together has led to effective family communication in other areas. “When something needs to be done, we communicate about it clearly,” Bishop Schwieder says. “This has carried over into other principles. We speak openly about any rules or guidelines that have to do with the gospel.”

The family tradition of working together began when the children were young and is deep rooted (the Schwieder children are the fourth generation to work the farm). Even when the children were little, the family enjoyed spending summers together in a small house on the farm acreage, 25 miles west of their home, while everyone took turns helping their dad.

The Schwieders learned how to work through doing daily chores of feeding the cattle and baling and stacking hay.

“This has been one of the greatest factors in our closeness,” Sister Myrna Schwieder says. “When you work closely as a family, you get through the hard times together. And we also know how to have fun together.”

For instance, Daniel, 19, likes to amuse family members with his “windmill,” a movement in which he swings his arms wildly trying to swat away the various bugs buzzing around him. Whether they’re playing or working, it’s obvious that the Schwieders enjoy being together.

Preparing for life’s challenges

Besides bringing their family closer, working together has also prepared the Schwieder children for the challenges of life. For example, Jay was already characterized as a hard worker by the time he arrived at the Washington Tacoma Mission because the mission president heard that he grew up working on a farm.

“I decided that if that is what he thinks, then I’d better work hard,” Jay says.

Sonja, Jay, and Kirt have all served missions, and Daniel is currently serving in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission. They all used money they earned driving tractors on hot summer afternoons and freezing winter mornings to help buy their missionary clothes and pay for the monthly expenses of being in the mission field.

Jay even raised a herd of cattle to help pay for his mission. “One of my dad’s colleagues was generous enough to give me a steer,” Jay says. “Instead of selling it and just spending the money for fun, I used the money to buy my own herd that I was able to build up for myself.”

Learning the value of work

The Schwieders say they’ve learned that hard work and perseverance always pay off. Kirt learned this lesson baling hay.

“One of my favorite things about farming is when I’ve worked all night baling hay, and then the sun starts to rise and I look out over the field and see the sun’s rays light up what I’ve accomplished,” Kirt says. All through the night I couldn’t even see what I was doing. But when I finally get a glimpse, it’s a real sense of accomplishment.”

Sister Schwieder says that hard work has taught her children to be self-sufficient. “Each one of them has acquired different things from taking on responsibilities,” she says.

While they’ve had positive experiences farming, the Schwieders are quick to point out that the same lessons can be learned in any family business, work, or hobby.

“It’s true that we have our farming experiences, and I often shared them on my mission,” Kirt says. “But others have their own experiences that they bring to life or to the mission field.”

Although they’re not sure whether they want to become farmers, the Schwieder children say they do want to have their future families work together in some way. “When I think about my future family, I know I want to raise them the same way I was raised,” Jay says. “I want to have the same types of family relationships, and in our family we developed them through working together.”

Photography by Craig Dimond

The Schwieders have found that working together keeps the family on track, heading in the same direction with common goals.

On the farm, keeping fences in good repair is essential. In a family, keeping relationships solid also takes constant effort. Time spent together talking and listening makes for strong family ties.