Farm Kid Safety

When was the last time you talked about safety on your farm?  Farming is one of today’s most dangerous jobs because of the machinery and work farmers and ranchers face every day.  There is an estimated 893,000 youth under the age of 20 growing up on farms in the United States (according to a 2014 survey) and about half are doing work on the farm.  Farm kids live and play with big equipment and big animals, and they have a big responsibility to understand the dangers of it all.

We have set rules and guidelines unique to our facility, as I’m sure all farms do. These were procedures we put into place back when we had just one adorable little farm girl who could barely wobble the length of the parlor.  When a vehicle or piece of machinery comes into the driveway you must stand near the closest building and touch it.  Stay there until the driver tells you to let go.  We never go up to the driver, period.  No hiding in or around equipment. But the dangers of being on the farm go beyond just those rules.  I realize this now because we have three adorable little farmers who are always outside and always watching what we do.  How do we help them explore, learn, AND keep them safe?  How do we keep vigilant at enforcing the safety rules?

Regular conversations about farm safety should be a vital part of keeping everyone on the farm safe, from employees to visitors and especially our little ones.  Honestly, if I have to remind my daughter to put her clothes in the laundry room daily…then when it comes to those no-play zones on the farm, we need to discuss it frequently.  When family and friends come to visit, it is another opportunity to brush everyone up on the farm rules.  It is a good idea to have a designated play and toy area that is visible from where you spend most of your time on the farm.  The milk house may contains chemicals for cleaning and medicines for the animals, remind everyone these should be kept high and securely closed if your children have access to these rooms.  Grain bins and manure storage are places that should be explained and discussed on a level that your children will understand; these areas of the farm are very dangerous but can look harmless. 

“Farm safety for kids is so important. You can never “go back” after an accident. No one else takes their children to work in a dangerous environment. Communication and education are so important. Talk safety and risks to your kids. Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is to them.” – Laura Johnston

There is always so much valuable information to be learned from open communication with other farmers.  I asked a few other dairy mommas what kind of habits they have implemented on their farms, each of us spoke from our own experiences to learn from each other.  One of the most important things we talked about was the need for parents to remember there are just some jobs that our children, at certain ages, should not be involved in.  As we try to be more cautious of our finances and do more of the work ourselves that can often lead to children riding in tractors, hauling wagons, or sitting along during harvest.  We get the opportunity to take our kids to work with us but if family or friends off the farm are available to help watch the kids we shouldn’t hesitate to ask for a little help.  Farmers are pretty amazing, but we shouldn’t expect ourselves to do EVERYTHING at once.  Below are some more great tips that came from our conversation.  I would like to give a HUGE thank you to those amazing parents who shared their insight with me {they are listed individually at the end of this post} and helped implement some *new* safety measures for my farm family.

Every farm will have their own ways of tackling safety concerns, my goal with this post is simply to keep every farm family thinking and working at keeping everyone safe.  Follow this link to learn about Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, the mission is to provide education, training and resources to make farm, ranch and rural life safer and healthier for children and their communities.  Please feel free to share this post. Farm on, Nicole

Farm Safety Tips

  • The kids wear bright colors. In the winter they have Carhartt stocking caps in safety orange, in the summer Cargill caps in the same color. Machinery is not a toy.  No tractor bucket rides, no kids operating machinery at all.  No kids in any of the free stalls, corrals or pens unless accompanied by an adult.  No kids in the parlor or chemical or compressor rooms.
  • The kids are not allowed outside if I’m the only one operating machinery. When the milk truck comes they freeze.  We talk about cow signals a lot and what the cow is trying to tell us. The very best thing we did was get our feed area away from the milk barn and the house.  Another random thing I do is complement our delivery drivers on their safe driving and thank them for looking out for the kids.
  • Our main rule is anything coming into the yard the kids need to go on the grass, that way whoever is coming in can see you. We have our sandbox in the middle of the yard so it is within eye sight and I don’t pick toys up all the time because that tells other people coming that there are kids here.
  • I think our biggest thing is know your limits. There are some things that we will just not do with the kids around (chopping hay, anything with lots of up and down/in and out).  Tractor rides are limited to the field where the operator is not constantly in and out.  All of our medication for the animals is stored up high.  We also have a “Slow Kids” sign at the start of our drive (call your country and they should be able to get you one).
  • I am making signs for our farm lane that has all vehicles stop up at our office, not to drive down by the barns. If a vehicle needs to drive down they must call first to give heads up they are coming.  All visitors, no matter who they are, must have approval.
  • It’s more than just big equipment or chemicals that are life changing. At our house, the shop is off limits and the kids are told if they go by the manure pit they will die.  No dolling it up.
  • Our son took a tractor safety course through our county this past winter and now we allow him to gradually take on some of the tractor driving tasks. The important aspect of that is gauging each kid’s maturity and gradually let them learn tasks.  Our second child won’t be taking that course when he’s that age because he isn’t ready and won’t be for a while.

{Thank you: Ashley Holloway Edstrom, Heather Ann Moore, Jamie Malone, Angela Marketon Tauer, Kalli Keen Ehrhardt, Emily Krueger, Sue Dettmann}

Nicole is a wife, mom of three, and dairy farmer from northeastern Michigan. She and her husband milk 60-70 cows and farm 300 acres. Sharing honestly about their first generation dairy farm and motherhood is what you’ll find here.

Author: Nicole

Nicole is a wife, mom of three, and dairy farmer from northeastern Michigan. She and her husband milk 60-70 cows and farm 300 acres. Sharing honestly about their first generation dairy farm and motherhood is what you'll find here.

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