I have a friend that lives in a big city who recently shared a story about how local students visiting a nature preserve were given shovels and allowed to dig holes. This was a novel experience for almost all of them. Both my partner and I raised our eyebrows because we were raised as farm kids and wouldn’t find digging holes very fun or interesting at that age. The conversation eventually led to our childhood memories of digging holes.

The first hole I remember digging was in kindergarten when my Girl Scout troop planted a tree at our school. Many of my fondest “hole-digging memories” are of planting trees with my friends for Earth Day or other events. It really is odd to think about how many kids have never planted a tree or used a shovel to build a fence, fix underground equipment or any number of other chores.

When comparing my childhood to others, I recognize how lucky I am and feel a wave of gratitude for my privilege. I was a very happy kid — some of that was probably genetic but a lot came for things like having happily married parents who provided for my needs along with the support that comes from a large extended family.

My privilege feels amplified because I am part of a shrinking population to grow up in a small town or on a family farm. I have experienced the freedom of a bike, the adventure of climbing into corn cribs, the creativity of building something from your mind and the satisfaction of working with dirty hands. I solve problems of all kinds, use tools, drive vehicles of all sizes and back up trailers.

Even though they never have to spend a day stacking hay bales in a sweltering, chaff-filled haymow or picking rocks out of a field, I am sad for the kids who don’t grow up on a farm. They are missing out on some of the best ways to grow skills, work ethic, responsibility, confidence, grit, problem solving and countless other valuable character traits.

I use my farm kid upbringing all the time, but it is most evident when it helps me to survive as a farm adult. Farming requires the kind of mental toughness that is built up over time.

As I was leaving our house the other day, I met Marc as he was arriving. Cell phones don’t hold a candle to the communication that comes with the eye contact of a quick conversation through truck windows in the middle of a gravel road.

As we wrapped up a quick conversation, Marc’s parting words were, “Don’t look at what’s on the back of my pickup.” He wasn’t trying to be secretive. We are several weeks into calving season and he had found a stillborn calf during his pen check. Marc was trying to save me from the sadness of a lost animal.

My heart will always hurt when we lose a calf, but death is an inevitable part of owning livestock. A lifetime experience on the farm helped me build the strength to weather the cycle of life and death that is a truth of this life.

Farm life is full of hard thing — hard lessons, hard truths, hard work. We gain confidence and competence to face challenges in life by doing what is difficult and surviving.

Jackie Mundt, a Wisconsin native, is a Farm Bureau leader and farmer from Kansas. She is a contributor to Collegiate and Young Farmers & Ranchers programming at the local, state and national level. She was recently selected as a member of the American Farm Bureau’s 12th Partners in Advocacy Leadership class. This column originally appeared on the Kansas Farm Bureau website.