Preserving the family farm and keeping kids safe

Colton Hawkins and his sister, Marissa, prepare their calf to show at the 2014 Kirkton Fair.

By Erin Fifield

For many children in a rural community, their home isn’t just where they live; it’s also often their family’s workplace. For a farmer, there is no greater joy then sharing their passion with the next generation and seeing them take an interest in the family business. Children who grow up on a farm are taught hard work, commitment, resourcefulness, sacrifice and many more great attributes from a young age. As soon as they’re able, farm kids are expected to contribute and are given age appropriate chores to do. While the rural lifestyle does instill some great characteristics in children, it can also expose them to different safety concerns than their urban friends face.

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The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture know how important it is for farmers to protect their children, while preserving the farm experience for future generations.

That’s why they’ve launched a 3 year campaign entitled “Be an AgSafe Family,” with this year’s focus on kids. Next year, the focus will be on adults and they’ll complete the campaign focusing on senior’s safety in 2018.

If you visit www.agsafetyweek.ca, you will find some great tips and tools that farm families can use to help keep their children safe. One of those tools is “A Safety Contract.” To complete the contract, parents and their children must sit down and discuss the various safety concerns specific to their farm and then come up with rules that will help keep everyone safe. The children then must sign the contract stating that they understand the safety risks and promise to follow the rules they’ve created. While it may seem trivial, just taking the time to talk about the risks and how to avoid them will go a long way in keeping children safe.

Unfortunately, even the most vigilant parents can’t guarantee that accidents won’t happen. Perth County farmers, Terry and Liz Hawkins learned this sad truth last September; when their 8-year-old son, Colton, lost his leg below the knee in an accident with a harvester. Colton had shown a strong desire to be out on the farm, learning from and helping his family since he could walk.

This accident could have been devastating for such an active child; however, I believe that it was those same attributes discussed at the beginning of this article that have contributed to Colton overcoming his new challenges. His determination not only helped him get back on his feet and back on the farm, but incredibly he was able to compete in his first hockey game only 5 months after the accident.

The family farm is a time-honoured tradition that must continue despite the risk factors associated with it. We need to teach our children how to stay safe, while still giving them the opportunity for hands on learning. After all, family farms aren’t just producing crops and livestock, they’re also producing hard working, dedicated and resourceful members of our community.

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