STERLING — For Geoffrey and Jenny Burgess, farming is not a hobby. It’s their livelihood.
They grow corn, sorghum, soybeans and wheat in Sterling. On most days, they wake up, get the kids ready for school and step out their door to tend their fields.
This March, their routine came to a halt. After Kansas schools closed due to COVID-19, the Burgess family needed to restructure.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Jenny said. “We tried to keep a routine.”
Although they had corn to plant and equipment to fix, when their kindergartner and middle schooler were first home full time, the Burgesses were distracted.
“The first two weeks we were both in there (home office) helping them out,” Jenny said.
“There were so many emails from teachers,” said Dillan, 12.
While Dillan, who attends Sterling Middle School, was overwhelmed with the amount of assignments and the different forms of technology he had to use, his little sister Jessica, 6, didn’t have much to do. Geoffrey and Jenny decided to fix both issues.
They taught Dillan to prioritize his work, and they bought several workbooks for Jessica.
After the first two weeks, the parents realized they needed to change their paradigm. They have their children “attend” school from 8 a.m. to noon each day, have eat lunch together and then they either work on the farm or the garden. They concluded only one parent needed to be with the kids in the morning, so they took turns.
“It’s worked out,” Jenny said. “We do every other day.”
Meanwhile, the kids are happy being with their parents — and their two dogs, Jack and Thor.
“I like working on the farm. Helping to get the planting done, hauling the fertilizer and seed,” Dillan said. “I can eat more of her (mom’s) cooking.”
Jessica helped plant cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet corn in the garden this year. She also rode in the tractor while they planted corn.
“She navigated,” Geoffrey said.
Both children helped the family build a hen house.
“We’ve enjoyed having them around, but it’s presented challenges,” Geoffrey said. “It’s nice to slow down time.”
Geoffrey, who grew up in England, speaks with his parents weekly. They had to cancel their visit this summer due to COVID-19. Jenny’s parents live in Rice County. Dillan helps them split wood and take care of their cattle.
When the stay-at-home ban lifts, the children want simple things. Jessica wants to go play at her friend Annie’s house, and Dillan wants to play basketball. Geoffrey, who has worn down his boots, plans to ride out to Hutchinson to buy a new pair and Jenny wants alone time.
“I can’t wait to have some quiet time. I love the kids, but mom needs her moments of silence,” Jenny said. “Getting back to my normal routine.”