altRecently I was approached for some advice to promote a program aiding girls in need of mentorship, encouragement and confidence to be strong.

This was a foreign concept to me at first. I have been blessed, literally from my birth through my 40s to be surrounded by strong women. As a child it was my mom, my aunts and their friends. In college it was older students and teachers. As an adult it’s been career mentors, fellow mothers and the older generation in my own family. Women with strong bodies and personalities coupled with strong opinions.

In May, we attended graduation ceremonies in my southwest Missouri hometown. I was in awe how much the school had changed. Teachers who were young college graduates when I was in school were on the verge of retirement. My heart was swollen with pride as my oldest niece walked through the line and received her high school diploma. She is just another generation of strong women who was raised by strong women.

What’s been the generational secret to raising strong women? Working isn’t an option in life. It’s what we do. My great-grandmother worked hard on a first-generation family farm in Iowa with her children, even after she was widowed. She raised my grandfather to work hard and take excellent care of everything he had. My mother was a product of Catholic school and farm raising. She taught my sister and I that a job worth doing was worth doing well. Working is what our family has always done, together.

As I watched my niece receive a diploma she had worked hard to earn, it made me think about all the things she learned from her community and family. She practiced hard to secure a place on the varsity volleyball and basketball teams throughout high school. She waits tables at a café and lifeguards at a local swimming pool to make car and insurance payments. She recently turned 18 and is making plans to study in a nearby college program. I am so proud to watch her spread her wings. She’s doing the thing she was raised to do – fly!

Our local Fayetteville, Ark., schools recently released for summer break. Each day our kids are expected to complete tasks to feed and care for animals and keep up with yardwork and our home. It’s not that we are mean parents, but we want our kids to understand that part of being in a family is working together. As a dear friend of mine often says, “every able body must do work.” It’s good for our souls, what makes us tick – we need purpose.

It’s been wonderful to watch my own children take responsibility for farm animals and pets. Some day when my hair is gray, I hope to kick back and watch the next generation become people who enjoy the satisfaction brought forth by hard work. Let’s raise this next generation of girls to not just be strong, but farm strong, neighbor.

Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’

Jody HarrisEditorial / OpinionsJody Harris,raising,strong womenRecently I was approached for some advice to promote a program aiding girls in need of mentorship, encouragement and confidence to be strong. This was a foreign concept to me at first. I have been blessed, literally from my birth through my 40s to be surrounded by strong women. As...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma