A few years ago, when I was about nine, I discovered something that has since been more of a blessing than a curse. I was doing chores in the barn we'd converted into a sow nursery, filling troughs with water and feed. One sow, however, was too busy farrowing to eat. It was slow, hard work.

Finished with chores, I pulled out our old cot and curled up to watch and possibly help with that wondrous event. The sow worked and strained and pushed and grunted. Finally, a pig slipped out. I rushed to pull cleanings out of its mouth and pushed it under the heat lamp. Then came more grunts and pushes - and nothing to show for it.

I called over my mom, who was finishing chores nearby. She looked at the size of the pig and back at the small sow. "She's going to need some help," Mom said as she started rolling up her sleeves.

I realized that rolling up sleeves seems to be what farmers do best. It's also called "pitching in" and "doing what has to be done." From good farmer stock, I was given the opportunity to watch and help and learn from parents who didn't care about the quality (at first). They wanted to make sure I learned the joys of getting a job done, then about getting it done well.

Sam Woods, at the Agricultural Technical Institute, Wooster, OH, is concerned that young people today aren't given that chance to learn. Coordinator of ATI's Crop Production and Services Technology Program, he sees a lot of post high school kids - even those with farm backgrounds - who need to develop work ethics.

"A lot of times, we find that students have never run the combine; have never planted. On a super-farm, everything has to be done timely and done right. No one has time to teach," Woods observes.

Well, Woods is trying to change that. His program offers students a three-credit "work experience" of three hours/week on farms and a 10-week internship. Students work for wages, sometimes for the first boss they've had. "Sometimes they may have to do some chores that are not very educational, but it's real world. They have to get up early in the morning and go to bed pretty late at night. So they get a feeling what it's like in the world of work," Woods says.

"In the two or three years they're with us, we see a big change in their responsibility traits. They're ready to take on responsibility."

Like most parents, I'd like my kids ready for responsibility long before they are out the door. A good work ethic, even though it may be a curse at times, is something most of us want to pass on to the next generation.