Nellie Bell, Hagerstown, is an Indiana FFA state officer, serving as 2010-2011 southern –region vice-president. She was also the perfect person to present a talk from a young person's standpoint during the recent safety forum at the Beck Ag Center sponsored by the Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council, and Purdue University's Ag Engineering Department and safety affiliates.
Bell, a graduate of Don Sturgeon's Hagerstown FFA program, can remember meeting and talking to Bill Field, Purdue University Extension safety specialist, when she was a little girl. Field helped found Breaking New Ground, which has turned into the Agri-ability project with tentacles running throughout the country. Its' whole mission is to help disabled farmers continue in their occupation.
Bell's dad, Ed, ha been paralyzed from the waist down for some 20 years. Despite that fact, he and his family have operated a strawberry farm and continue to farm. He himself is an often a speaker about the need to continue living after a debilitating injury. When Nellie accompanied him while she was a small child, it was often to Breaking New Ground events, or to places where her dad and Field would talk and work on new ways to help victims like Ed live a more complete, productive, working life.
"We have a program in FFA called Bridging New Horizons," Bell explains. "It encourages chapters to do a project for disabled people in their community. Chapters are recognized and rewarded for taking this step."
The heart of vocational agriculture and FA are supervised occupational experience programs, everything from raising beef cattle and corn to mowing lawns and working for a tractor dealer ion the service department. "We need to teach safety as a part of these programs," she adds. "Students need to think about safety. If they work safely, they're going to be more efficient in the workplace."
One part of safety education dear to students and young adults is road safety, she notes. She believes FFA chapters and members should do everything they can to promote safety on rural roads, both for the farmers driving equipment and for the students and other rural people driving cars. Many don't realize how slow a tractor or combine moves, or that it has the right to share the road. "We need to understand why it's important to drive slower as young adults, and why we must share the road with farmers," she concludes.