Harvest was going fairly well on the Gary Kerr farm three years ago until tragedy struck and changed the lives of the family forever. Their son, Kyle, an active 4-H member and would-be farmer, perished in a grain suffocation incident inside a wagon load of grain.
If anything good can come from tragedy, it's that it raises the awareness of other people in the area about the potential dangers of farming if safety rules aren't followed. Katilyn Kerr, Kyle's older sister and now a sophomore at Hanover College, has committed herself to spreading the word and making a difference.
She helped bring a farm safety program to the Franklin County Fair this summer geared to educating high school and middle school students about potential dangers on the farm. She is currently serving as outreach coordinator in Indiana for Farm Safety For Just Kids. Ironically, that organization was started some two decades ago by an Iowa farmwife after her 11-year old son also perished in a wagon load of grain.
"Growing up people would say your siblings aren't just your siblings – they're your best friends," Kerr says. "I didn't realize that until I lost Kyle. We did everything together, from playing in the creek to playing video games all night.
"Growing up I was the one in the family that wanted nothing to do with farming. My family's heart was with farming and mine was on the basketball court. After losing Kyle to something he loved so dearly, it made me realize that even though I wasn't all about farming, my heart (was still) there.
"Now all I want to do is reach out to children and teenagers about the dangers of farming. I want people to hear my story about not only losing my brother, but my best friend.
"Kyle will forever hold a special place in my heart and so will farming."
Look for more thoughts from Kerr in the next issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.