June 27, 2023
Brian Kuhl, CEO of the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, shares advice and resources to help keep kids stay safe on farms and in rural communities.
Growing up on or visiting farms can help children learn the value of hard work and responsibility, but there are safety risks to consider. Brian Kuhl, CEO of the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, says his organization focuses on bringing education, training and resources to rural communities to help keep children safe.
Prioritize youth farm safety
The Progressive Agriculture Foundation was formed nearly 30 years ago to focus on youth safety in rural communities where there can be unique hazards not found in more urban settings. Learn more at www.progressiveag.org.
“We know farming is one of the most dangerous occupations and one that often involves children. Whether they are working in the operation or being raised in that environment, we’re bringing hazards into their lives,” Kuhl says.
Safety starts with adults on the farm, he continues. “Adults should model the safe behaviors they want their children to practice. If farm operators instill those safety practices, it becomes part of the farm’s culture. Children will pick up on those habits, and it will become second nature to perform tasks safely.”
Modeling safe behaviors include wearing a helmet when riding an ATV, using rollover protection on tractors, wearing a seatbelt while operating equipment and avoiding grain bin entry without proper safety precautions.
“I understand there are times when farm workers just need to get work done,” says Kuhl, who’s also a farmer. “It’s easy to cut corners and skirt around best safety practices, but children pick up on that. As parents or other adults in a farming operation, we want to teach children how to do things safely.”
Consider a child’s capabilities
Farm operators should assess a child’s physical and mental capabilities to perform on-farm tasks safely. For example, Kuhl says there is no standard age that a child should begin driving equipment.
“Even if you’ve heard that kids should start driving tractors at a certain age, it really depends on an individual child’s capabilities. We need to understand what that individual child can do safely. We have to know our children’s limits, and we shouldn’t push them into performing operational tasks that they don’t feel safe doing,” Kuhl says.
Youth farm safety resources
Extension educators and 4-H and FFA programs may offer safety training and certification opportunities in rural communities.
“During the spring and summer, we see more opportunities such as tractor driving or ATV operator certification for rural youth. These organizations may also offer safety camps, classes or seminars that children can participate in,” Kuhl says. “Search your area for these opportunities and, if nothing is available, learn how you can bring something to your community.”