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Safety on the farm Ag Safety Day focuses on kids

By Staff | Sep 15, 2017

Shelly Mortenson of Cooperative Farmer’s Elevator , Ocheyedan, led a station that taught children about the dangers of flowing grain. Here, she leads a hands-on effort to show the children how difficult it is to pull someone who has become entrapped in a grain bin.



SIBLEY – Ashley Peters had enough.

She had heard of so many farm accidents involving children in and around Osceola County this summer that she felt she needed to do something to help educate them about the dangers that lurk around farms and otherwise rural areas. So she put together a day-long ag safety day for kids, held last month on the Osceola County Fairgrounds in Sibley.

“It’s so sad when you feel like these accidents involving children could have been prevented, and I felt that as a parent and an extension person, we had to try to do something about it. I felt like I’m in the perfect position to line it up,” said Peters, Osceola County youth coordinator with Iowa State University Extension. “I have the connections and capabilities to do it.”

The camp was designed for youth ages four through 12 and featured age appropriate hands-on activities led by community partners who work in those fields every day.

It featured sessions on lawn mower and ATV safety, ID and “Stranger Danger” information, and being safe around livestock, power lines, large equipment, grain bins and chemicals. It also included sessions teaching about commodity marketing, biosecurity, the importance of hand washing on the farm, first aid, and corn field navigation.

“Once I brought the idea up to Steve Swenson (local DuPont Pioneer representative) he offered to provide sponsorship,” said Peters. “From there, the planning began.”

Peters said once she put the “feelers” out, it “took off like wildfire.” There were area ag businesses who approached her wanting to be part of the day, instead of her asking them if they would be willing to share some of their time and people for this camp.

There were a total of 33 youth who attended, which she said was “huge” since they have the smallest geographic county and the smallest per-capita population in the state.

She said the goal that day was two-fold – to teach about safety around the farm, but they also wanted to educate youth about what to do in the event of an emergency.

“That’s why we had sessions led by first aid and emergency response teams,” she said, adding that local law enforcement also identified the children officially in the event they were ever to be lost or taken.

The local fire department talked with children about what to do in case of a building fire – namely, not going back in to a burning building to retrieve something. They told the children to let the firefighters be in charge of that.

One of the sessions was called Commodity Carnival, put on by the local 4-H Youth Council. Each camper filled a plastic egg (representing a cow or a pig) with various “inputs” (in the form of marbles, grain, etc), representing the different costs associated with raising animals -grain, facilities, electricity and transportation. When the egg was filled it was weighed and the weight recorded. (Each child put their own ‘inputs’ in the egg, so each egg had a different weight.) They then received a plastic flat chip with their animal’s weight on it. They took that chip and slipped it into a slot, where that chip would bounce its way through a maze of pegs, and landed at the bottom of the board. If the number the chip landed on was greater than the number on their chip, they made money on their animal. But if the chip landed on a number that was smaller, they lost money.

“It showed the kids that you have no control over the agricultural markets,” said Alex McDougal, who was running the event. “It helps kids understand that sometimes you make money and sometimes you lose money on your animals, but that you can’t always control it.”

Campers received lunch, snacks and a t-shirt in exchange for attending the camp.

Peters said her time was well-spent in putting this camp together.

“I want to minimize the amount of accidents, and I want kids to learn from a younger age how to be safe on the farm, around machinery and just how to be safe in agriculture,” she said. “When people think of ‘ag,’ they think of the farm – but we live in agriculturally-driven Northwest Iowa, and I want the kids to understand that agriculture goes beyond the local farm, that it’s everything in this area.”

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