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Written by Devin Helming

“Well, at least parenting is easy…”

Okay… That’s a statement I have yet to hear coming out of my mouth. If you are a parent, I’m sure you can relate. With 4 boys – 2 teenagers, a pre-teen, and a young fella of 3; our household often isn’t easy. It is, however, very rewarding. My wife Sarah and I often reflect on the utopian standards we had laid out for our family when we were just getting started, such as, we would always reserve one night a week for family game night and family games will have priority over all other activities. You’re laughing, aren’t you? Here’s another one: our boys will not date until they’re ready to get married… still laughing? Yep. Now we ask ourselves questions like: Where did our family time go? Why don’t my kids think I’m as great as I truly am? Why are we so busy? What’s burning in the kitchen? Then, when the smoke clears, we sit down to supper and talk to them about their day. I’m thankful that often we get beyond the (extremely helpful) one word answers of “fine,” “good,” & “nothing” because this is when we get to learn about their lives, provide counsel where needed, and hopefully reinforce our values in their real world interactions.


In addition to having these wonderful conversations, Sarah and I look for opportunities to pass down life skills that will benefit them. One particular skill I wanted to focus on this summer was gun safety and marksmanship training. I had learned several years ago about  Project Appleseed, and had attended with one of my boys the previous year. It was such a beneficial experience that we decided to try it with my 3 oldest sons again this summer. We threw some food in the cooler, packed into the family van and road tripped to the Appleseed being held near Pepin, WI. Appleseed events are held during fair weather months at local ranges and gun clubs across the country. We chose to go to Pepin, WI because it worked well with our schedule and seemed like the perfect destination for a “guys” adventure weekend. There’s something about the beauty of the Mississippi River Valley that is hard to resist.


An Appleseed event consists of two primary components. First, a history component that focuses on the dynamics of the Revolutionary War, specifically going into detail about how our young nation secured our independence through superior marksmanship capabilities. Superior rifle marksmanship skills are part of our nation’s history – yet today, these skills that would have once been considered foundational and common place are now considered advanced and unique. An objective of Appleseed is to teach these foundational rifle skills to participants that attend an event. The second component works to teach those foundational skills – first and foremost, how to safely handle a firearm – that have been passed down through the generations. Some of the foundational things we worked on included:

devin-with-son– Safe use of a firearm
– Proper use of a sling
– MOA – windage and elevation adjustments
– Obtaining site picture
– Natural point of aim
– Standing, seated, prone positions
– Proper breathing while shooting


Over the course of the weekend, we alternated between history lessons, rifle lessons, and live firing (most participants use a .22 rifle). At the end of the 2 day event, my boys and I averaged shooting between 400-500 rounds each. There was a qualification test called the AQT (Appleseed Qualification Test), which is similar to the Army Qualification Test. The AQT let us test our skills as we learned and practiced them. The ultimate goal was to obtain a score of “Rifleman.” If you achieve Rifleman status you have truly reached a milestone. And, they don’t just give the Rifleman Patch away – you earn it.  My 3 sons and I are at varying levels of marksmanship and we all made improvement over the course of the weekend. While none of us hit the Rifleman score at this Appleseed, we learned foundational skills that will help us hone our own abilities. I’m confident we will attend another Appleseed next year to again go for the Rifleman patch. At the end of the weekend, I felt great satisfaction in participating with my sons in an event that instructed us all in the valuable skills of using a rifle safely and accurately.


While many aspects of parenting are not easy, some are incredibly rewarding. It is a joy to participate with my sons in events that help build life skills. From being able to handle competitive sporting environments (such as those observed on a basketball court), to figuring out new complicated algebraic equations, or developing the foundational skills of rifle marksmanship that are part of this great nation’s legacy, I relish helping my sons through the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, because, when it comes down to it, that is what it means to be a parent.

Devin joined AFS in January of 2009. He is a Certified Crop Advisor, and his role includes managing the Pioneer Pro Rep Agency, and also represents Pioneer Crop Insurance. Devin attended Iowa State University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy. Prior to AFS, Devin worked 6 years at an Agribusiness company that included experience both in retail, and at the corporate headquarters. Also he spent 5 years working in the financial services industry in the Twin Cities. Devin is married to Sarah, and together they have 3 boys. One of his favorite things to do is cheer on his boys in their many activities, both as a fan, and a coach.