Farm Horizons, September 2002

Farm safety program is real eye-opener for kids

By Lynda Jensen

Torn clothing dangling from a small clothesline, model toys, and personal testimonies from farmers themselves are just a few things that Bill Martens uses to teach farm safety.

The clothing is from actual power takeoff farming accidents . . . and the advice ­ direct from injured farmers ­ is the voice of experience, teaching young rural children about farm safety.

The program is courtesy of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, a non-profit organization, and Cargill, which is a corporate sponsor of the group. The Meeker County Extension Service also participates by helping staff the program.

Martens is the president and founder of the Litchfield chapter of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, which serves a larger region that includes Wright County.

He also administers it as a former long-time Cargill employee, since he used to manage a grain elevator and worked for Cargill for 30 years. Martens has seen many farmers who endured farming accidents.

Having an injured farmer testify to how his accident occurred is powerful stuff, commented Dave Schwartz from the extension service.

"When they are up there, holding up a stub for an arm ­ it makes an impression," Schwartz said.

The program reaches 5,000 kids each year from local school districts in the Litchfield and surrounding areas.

The program is presented during a 20-to-25-day stretch both spring and fall that funnels about 140 students each day through the program at the Nelson Farm, which is a real farm that was converted into a learning center dedicated to teaching young people about farm life. It is also presented during county fairs and other formats, Martens said.

There is an average of 28 deaths per year across the state attributed to farm accidents, according to the Minnesota Extension Service.

Of these deaths, 37 percent occur during the months of September, October, and November.

"It's right next to coal mining," for its hazards, Martens said, although it's not as bad as it was.

Schwartz didn't realize how common accidents were until he called a farmer's wife to ask about her husband tesifying to the children.

"She asked him 'Which accident?' Schwartz said, since apparently the farmer was involved in more than one. "That's how it is."

One type of farming death ­ suffocation ­ is demonstrated in the program by a miniature gravity flow wagon filled with small grain ­ with a small action figure that quickly dissappears under the grain, demonstrating to young people in terms they can understand how easy it is to be killed that way.

It is precisely this kind of death more than 15 years ago that prompted a mother to form Farm Safety 4 Just Kids.

Upon the death of her only son by suffocation in a gravity wagon full of shelled corn, Marilyn Adams formed the organization.

From there, Adams started to promote awareness by distributing danger decals for gravity flow wagons.

Since then, she has worked tirelessly as a voice for children, speaking across the nation at engagements that involve farmers, legislators and even testifying before congress about children farm safety issues.

Today, the organization is an internationally recognized organization driven to prevent health hazards, injuries, and fatalities to children and youth.

More than 100 chapters and over 3,000 members exist in the United States, with six chapters in the Minnesota.

Adams also wrote a book about her experiences, Rhythm of the Seasons . . . A journey beyond loss. The book is an account of how Adams' family dealt with the grief related to the tragedy.

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