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Honor those lost by helping protect children on farmsHonor those lost by helping protect children on farms

Farms are dangerous places, and children are especially vulnerable.

Chris Torres

January 10, 2019

3 Min Read
Gleeful, happy toddler plays on a vintage antique green farm tractor. His shirt reads: 'Farmer In Training'.
FARM SAFETY: Two recent farm accidents brought home the importance of protecting children on the farm.killahfunkadelic/Getty Images

I didn’t grow up on a farm, nor do I own one now. But I always get a thrill visiting my in-laws’ farm when I get the chance.

It really is my personal connection to the farm, and I always find joy taking my three boys for a visit so they can get a taste of life in the countryside.

But I watch them closely. As fun as it is seeing my boys jumping on hay bales or walking down corn and soybean fields, I know there could be danger lurking right around the corner. Their grandfather is a busy man, and when he’s not messing around with a small project in the shed, he’s usually on his tractor or Gator finding something else to do. My children know to keep their eyes open always, and I know to keep my eyes on them.

Farms are dangerous places. I’ve written too many articles about tragic farm accidents to know this already. As much as I hate writing stories about farm accidents, readers need to know what dangers are lurking around farms. If I can help prevent one farm accident in my lifetime, I consider that a success.

But when these accidents involve children, especially young children, I get emotional; angry in fact.

I think about the pain the parents must be going through knowing they will never see their child’s smiling face again. I think about how unfair it is to hear of a child dying before they got a chance to truly live.

It’s unfair.

Two recent farm accidents involving children brought home just how tragic a child’s death on the farm can be. Last month, a 4-year-old boy died on a farm in Berks County, Pa., when he was struck by a manure spreader. According to news reports, the boy died of blunt force trauma.

Halfway around the globe but no less tragic, a 2-year-old boy was killed on his family’s farm in Australia after a fertilizer spreader collapsed on him on the family dairy. According to a news report, the spreader was being removed from a tractor when the accident happened.

According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, the fatality rate for children on farms was 20 times higher than all other industries combined.

A lot of children live on farms. According to 2014 statistics, the most recent statistics available, 51% of the 893,000 children living on farms have worked on the farm, too. The center estimates that a child dies in an ag-related accident once every three days. Most of those deaths, 25%, are caused by farm machinery, while 17% involved motor vehicles or ATVs.

I live in an area that has many Plain Sect farms. I drive by many of these farms during the growing season and see children driving tractors and other machinery.

I always hold my breath at livestock shows hoping no child gets run over by their cow. I’ve seen some pretty small children at halter of some pretty large animals.

Listen, I get it. Children who live on farms are bound to help out at some point. I’m envious of those people who got a chance to grow up on a farm; sounds like fun.

But is it ever worth putting a child in danger just so they can get the love of farming in their veins? Is it worth it not hiring that extra farmhand just because you have children who can help?

Children are our most precious resource. As adults, it’s our responsibility to protect them no matter what the situation is.

So, let’s watch our children. Especially on the farm.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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