All in a Day's Work on the Toavs Ranch

Written by Rebecca Colnar

Some parents may be daunted by their kids transitioning into the teen years, but for many ranch families, it’s just business as usual. Jessica and Scott Toavs, who ranch near Wolf Point, have three children: Remington, 13; Garrett, 11, and Constance, 9. The Toavs kids are growing up much like their parents—enjoying everything that ranch life offers.

Jessica grew up on a small ranch in Hinsdale where the family raised cows, sheep and horses, although her father did construction work as well, providing diversified income to keep the ranch running.

“My dad was a county commissioner in Valley County and Scott’s was county commissioner for Roosevelt County so we knew each other through that, plus our moms did some matchmaking to bring us together,” said Jessica. Today, the Toavs farm wheat, peas, canola and hay along with raising Black Angus cattle.

“The kids do everything that we do. This year at harvest season, Remington was our grain cart operator. He drove the tractor pulling the cart that the combine operator dumps the grain into,” said Jessica. “He put in a man’s hours. It is great to see your kids take on more and more responsibility.”

Constance comes along with Jessica whether it’s caring for the cows or fixing the fence. Garrett is especially interested in the mechanical aspects of the ranch, helping with breakdowns and refueling machinery.

“Of course, they all mow the lawn, help in the garden and are very helpful at calving time. They assist us with fencing projects by putting the clips on and pounding posts. Calving is a real joy for everyone. They will put bedding in the pens, bring in the cow-calf pairs and help with feeding,” Jessica noted. “Everyone has their own horse too.”

The ranch mom explained that chores evolve as the kids age, with the parents gradually introducing age-appropriate jobs. “We work with them to help them decide when they’re ready to do something. When we feel they’re ready, we let them give it a whirl. For instance, this year Garrett thought he’d like to drive the grain cart. Scott was with him the whole time he tried it, and they each concluded Garrett wasn’t quite ready to take on the job his older brother was doing.”

Jessica is happy their children are embracing rural life. “There is responsibility and there is joy, but there can be heartbreak, such as when an animal dies,” she said. “However, that is just a part of what we do. Ranching and raising livestock teaches compassion to kids. When an animal dies, you don’t think of the money you’ve lost; instead, you’re heartbroken because you care for these animals.”

Unlike many kids being raised in urban areas, ranch kids don’t spend their days staring at electronic devices; they’re outside getting life experiences.

“We never allowed electronic devices to become an issue. Sure, they know how to use them, but they’re not glued to a screen. There is so much to do, see and learn outside, which is another reason growing up on a farm or ranch is so positive. We love this life so much and we want our children to grow up the way we did. You’re in God’s creation all of the time.”

This fall, the Toavs will start homeschooling. “That’s going to be huge trying to figure out how we get all that school work done,” Jessica said, ready for the challenge. “It’s our new adventure.”

Rebecca Colnar is Director of Public Relations for Montana Farm Bureau and a freelance writer from Custer, Montana. 

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