When a personal tragedy strikes, most families turn their grieving inward. Marilyn Adams turned hers outward – and 25 years later, her efforts sparked a farm safety initiative that has reached millions of people.
Adams founded Farm Safety 4 Just Kids in 1987, after her 11-year-old son died in a gravity flow grain wagon accident. She wanted to promote a safe farm environment and educate children and youth about preventing health hazards, injuries and fatalities. What started as a tribute to her son has benefited 6 million people so far.
"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."
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.
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 of the outreach coordinators 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. The organization is also working with eh University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health 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, the rate of farm youth injuries has decreased by 59 percent from 1998 to 2009. The group specifically cited FS4JK as a positive influence on this decline.
"If our efforts over the past 25 years 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."