Making playtime safe on our farm

By Jennifer Nelson, MOSES Organic Specialist

At last post, we were beginning to build a safe play area for our three-year old on our new family farm. As with many parts of owning your own business, and farming especially, things come up and plans change to accommodate. While we’ve begun to create a small safe play area on our farm, we’ve also come to really love and make good use of the nearby county park. The beautiful woods, play areas, and fishing lake are a few of the many draws of this close off-farm space. We’ve also begun child care off-farm three mornings each week. An extra expense to be sure, but it’s proving to be an important transition and growing opportunity for our child. And, we’re both guaranteed freedom to work during crucial times of the busy farming season.

Having a safe place for our young child on our farm is important. We’re finding that the reality of owning and operating a family farm business with one of us working off-farm for necessary stable income, is that we need to be able to work without actively parenting at the same time. Realizing and carrying out that, AND letting go of how we thought it would be, continues to be a growing opportunity for our whole farm family.

With our evolved safe play area shaping up, and our childcare transition progressing, I’ve been looking at other ways to be safe on our farm. The leading causes of injury for children under 10 on farms are vehicles, including tractor, truck and other machinery, and drownings. ATV accidents are close in the running.

We have a machinery-loving son. Keeping him away from the tractors and other farm machinery is a challenge, but only when they’re not running. He’s very cautious, and always runs to a parent or an adult when he hears or sees a tractor or even the lawn mower starting up. We got lucky that way. Otherwise, we would be working hard to teach him to be near a parent whenever a tractor or other machinery is nearby.

We also have a field road on our property and many big farms near us with large tractors and trucks driving down our road. Honestly, I worry more about them than us. They often drive very fast, and the neighbor kids driving the big tractors seem very young. Our main rule about tractors for our 3-year-old is to stay away from them, especially when they’re running.

When the machines aren’t running, his attraction to them is another story. He’s so curious about how things work, and very imaginative in his play. He wants to hook up ropes to the bucket, and make trains of his play vehicles and the lawn mowers. Like most farms, we have a “broken something” in our pole shed (a lawn mower). He will sit on the broken lawn mower , for hours and pretend he’s driving a train, or a combine, or the disc plow. We allow that because we know it absolutely won’t start, all the parts of the machine that might move or fall are on the ground, and there are no leaking fluids coming out of the machine. We choose to do that because he enjoys it, the risk of injury is low, and we accept the risk. Anytime he’s in the pole shed, we’re near him. It’s mostly not a safe play area, rather a working area with many parts and things that are off-limits. There is an area we’ve created that he can play in with an adult watching him.

We have an ATV, but our son doesn’t ride it. We don’t have any waterways on our farm, but keep an eye for buckets of water, empty them, and store them upside-down in an appropriate area.

Now that I’m educating on children’s farm safety, I look at our farm and even our adult farm safety with different eyes. Farming is so dangerous because it’s the only workplace left in our industrialized nation that allows people of all ages to be present, and has no legal guidelines. As a farm parent, often I am just trying to get things done before the order has to go out, before the rain comes, or before the plant goes to seed. I think the same is true for other farm parents, too. We’re focused on getting the immediate work done, and often forget that the immediate situation might not be safe for a child. A little thought goes a long way, and I encourage you to keep your safety goggles on as you’re just trying to get it all done.

Go to main Farm Safety for Children webpage

Comments are closed.