WASHINGTON — Each year, millions of children visit farms across North America, including their family’s farm, a friend’s farm, school field trips, and other education experiences. While these visits can foster a child’s understanding of the agriculture industry, or their curiosity for farm practices, large equipment, and animals, it is vital to always keep safety at the forefront. Since farms are busy, active workplaces, children should be taught from an early age that the farm is not a play area.
As with many practices on the farm, producing grain can be dangerous. According to researchers at Purdue University, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported in the past 50 years with a fatality rate of 62%. A grain engulfment often resembles what it is like being trapped in quicksand. In a matter of seconds, one can become entrapped in grain and in less than a minute become fully submerged. In 2020 alone, 64 fatal and non-fatal cases involving agricultural confined spaces were documented with six cases involving youth under the age of 21. To shed light on this important topic, Grain Bin Safety Week is commemorated each year during the third full week of February.
Furthermore, every moment on a working farm or ranch is a teaching moment – especially for children. As agritourism continues to increase in popularity, it not only provides producers with the opportunity to generate additional income and establish an avenue for direct marketing to consumers, but it also creates educational learning opportunities for all ages. However, we need to always ensure that we are sending the correct messages about staying safe while on a working farm. When focusing on grain safety, it is unfortunately too common for agritourism site and other events to replace sand boxes with corn for children to play in, which causes great confusion. A young child will have trouble understanding and identifying the difference between grain in a play “corn box” and grain in a gravity flow wagon. Additionally, corn boxes bring other hazards including chocking, allergies, and crowding. They also quickly become a food source that can attract animals and pests, which can cause illness due to germs from feces.
In 2021 alone, nearly half of all Progressive Agriculture Safety Days held throughout North America featured a grain safety lesson.
Remember, in only a matter of seconds one can become entrapped in grain. You too can do your part to help keep kids safe from grain entrapments by sending the correct message when youth are visiting your farm.
To find more resources on integrating safety in agritourism, visit the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety website at https://safeagritourism.org/.
The “Safety Day Corner” is a safety message by the Progressive Agriculture Foundation® (PAF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, with the mission to provide education, training, and resources to make farm, ranch, and rural life safer and healthier for all children and their communities. Recognized as the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America, the Foundation’s Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program, has reached more than 1.8 million youth – and counting – since the program’s inception in 1995. For more information about PAF and its programs, visit: www.progressiveag.org.
–Jana L. Davidson, Program Manager
Progressive Agriculture Foundation