Farm Safety 4 Just Kids celebrates its 25th anniversary
When a personal tragedy strikes, most families turn their grieving inward. Marilyn Adams turned hers outward—and 25 years later, her efforts have sparked a farm safety initiative that has reached millions of people.
Adams founded Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK) in 1987, after her 11-year-old son suffocated and died in a gravity flow grain wagon accident on the family’s Iowa farm. She wanted to promote a safe farm environment and educate children and youth about preventing health hazards, injuries and fatalities after she discovered that an alarmingly high number of children are injured or killed on farms each year. What started as a tribute to her son has turned into a message heard by 6 million people and counting.
"I didn’t really know what to expect when I started FS4JK," Adams says. "The organization has grown and evolved so much in the past 25 years. It’s exciting to think about what lies ahead for the farm safety movement."
A network of volunteers. During the past 25 years, FS4JK has established a network of more than 120 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. Each chapter offers farm safety presentations in their area’s communities. To date, 35,600 volunteers have donated 280,000 hours of their time to promote safety issues on the farm. Notable advocates of FS4JK have included former First Lady Barbara Bush and former President Bill Clinton.
FS4JK emphasizes accident prevention through education. It has developed nearly 100 educational resources on a variety of topics, all of which are available on the organization’s website. In addition, a cadre of local outreach chapters aim to spread farm safety education throughout the country. One outreach coordinator in Illinois, Amy Rademaker, says being a part of FS4JK has had a positive impact on her life.
"I grew up in a farm family," she says. "Being a part of this organization has changed the way I look at what we did growing up on the farm. I think FS4JK has made me think of how things will be different for my son in a farm environment. It’s about finding a balance while still honoring family and tradition."
FS4JK is funded through various corporate sponsors and individual donors. Current projects include an overhaul of the current ATV safety packet. Other areas of emphasis include animal, chemical, grain and seat belt safety. The organization is also partnering with other entities to research how safety needs are affected as ag demographics change, particularly with the increase of small, part-time farms.
Executive director David Schweitz says that the organization’s education efforts are paying off. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the rate of farm youth injuries has decreased by 59% from 1998 to 2009. The group specifically cited FS4JK as a positive influence on this decline.
NIOSH and FS4JK both agree that educational efforts are a continued necessity. Each year, an average of 113 people under the age of 20 die from farm-related injuries.
"If our efforts have saved just one child from being hurt or killed on the farm, we’ve been successful," Schweitz says. "But we can’t stop there. We must continue to protect the future generations of farmers and ranchers."
An Ounce of Prevention
According to Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, everyone can follow these four easy guidelines about age appropriateness to help prevent childhood injuries on the farm:
- Find out what the developmental characteristics of children are at specific ages.
- Identify the dangerous areas on your farm.
- Set up appropriate rules for children to follow.
- Supervise children according to their age.