Organic Broadcaster

Parents share concerns about getting farm work done while caring for kids

By Jennifer Nelson, MOSES

gwen-watering-pigsAs the farm season draws to a close, I reflect on our MOSES field days and the wonderful conversations I had with farmers about all things farming, especially the reality of life on a producing farm. Our conversations often centered on how to raise children on the farm and get your work done.

As families return to farming, more and more parents are walking that fine balance of caring for little ones while getting the necessary work done on the farm. Conversations about farm safety can be uncomfortable to begin because the statistics are scary, and a bit overwhelming. Where do we farm parents start if we’re just trying to get the work done, and care for our children?

The first step is awareness, and open space to talk about our farm parent joys and fears. Themes have emerged during our conversations around the benefits and challenges.

The delights and benefits of raising children on the farm are invaluable and consistent across the board, including:

• Lots of room to play
• Instills passion, love and respect for land & good work ethic
• Strong family bond & character
• Real-life experience with life/death cycle
• Teaches responsibility
• Better health

The challenges and reality of farming with children are also consistent. Logistic challenges vary with different types of farming production, but themes include:

• Finding affordable child care
• Instilling a love for farming – safely
• Risk of injury/death
• Keeping friends/visitors safe
• Creating fun
• Combating isolation
• Keeping family in harmony

Farm families’ value of the benefits outweighs the fear of the risks, but of course everyone wants to learn to mitigate that risk and make the family farm work for them. Balancing the benefits and risks can be easier through education and there are many great resources to use as safety tools in our tool belt.

MOSES and The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety (NCCRAHS), have many resources and tools available to help ensure safety and mitigate risk.

First, The National Farm Medicine Center offers the ROPS (Rollover Protection Structure) Rebate Program to eligible Midwestern states, – Minnesota and Wisconsin. The ROPS Rebate Program offers a 70 percent rebate of the cost of purchasing and installing the ROPS (Rollover Protective Structure) Call to get a cost estimate for your tractor(s). The use of ROPS and a seat belt is estimated to be 99 percent effective in preventing death or serious injury in the event of a tractor rollover.

On-farm childcare can be made a lot easier with a fun, age-appropriate contained safe play area. The NCCRAHS offers many great resources including the booklet “Creating Safe Play Area on Farms,” which offers suggestions on creating a unique secured play area with appropriate activities based on age and developmental abilities.

Other resources and materials are available from NCCRAHS including: – practical methods for assessment of whether or not your child is ready for agricultural work tasks on your farm. – Listing of agriculture related injuries.

NAGCAT – Age developmental-based guidelines for youth performing agricultural work tasks.

Agriculture continues to be our nation’s most dangerous occupation, and the only worksite in the U.S. where children of any age can be present. Many agricultural work-related injuries and deaths are associated with children doing work that does not match their developmental level.

By using these quality resources, not only can farm families make their farms safer for children to be present, they can also know that they’re assigning age-appropriate tasks to their children working on the farm.

At our MOSES field days, we asked the question on the post-evaluation, “As a result of this event, will you make any changes on your farm with regard to children’s farm safety? If yes, what will you change?” 65 percent of the attendees responded with yes, and gave responses like these:

“Establish safe zones”
“Working on (safe) play area”
“Convincing husband to add rollover bar on the tractor”
“Talk to my (little one) about safe practices”

Children’s farm safety education is not a one-stop-fixes-all shop. It is an on-going conversation and a continual re-evaluation of practices. NCCRAHS has five recommendations for keeping kids safe on the farm that they consider hard-and-fast rules:

• Keep young children off of tractors
• Keep young children out of the worksite
• Ensure age-appropriate work
• Ensure a safe environment
• Provide training and build proficiencies

Observing these recommendations in the farm workplace as much as is possible in the reality of day-to-day farming can really improve safety on your farm. It has on mine.

Jennifer Nelson is a MOSES Organic Specialist and a beginning farmer at Humble Pie Farms.

From the September | October 2016 Issue

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