Progressive Agriculture Safety Days reach beyond the farm

Kim Luttrell

Correspondent 

Independent News

In 1990, Progressive Farmer magazine ran an article about 100 farm fatalities that occurred in a single year.  After an overwhelming response to the article it began including articles on farm safety and health in every issue.

In 1995, Progressive Farmer editor Jack Odle began what were called Progressive Farmer Farm Safety Day Camp programs.  

By 2002, the day camp programs had become so large and popular that the magazine placed them under the direction and management of the Progressive Agriculture Foundation.

Last year, the foundation had reached a milestone of having 1.5 million students go through its safety program.

When the program got started, it largely dealt with issues that children may face either on the farm or in a rural setting.

But as the number of people living on farms dropped, from 5.6 million when the safety day camps were started to 3.2 million in 2015, the safety programs have expanded their aim not only to farm and rural living children but also children in small towns.

Now topics not only include farm equipment and grain safety as well as electrical and chemical safety they include meth awareness and internet safety.

Locally, Carle Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety has coordinated with the Progressive Agriculture Foundation to bring these safety programs to the area.

“This is our 11th year to coordinate bringing this safety program to the students of our area,” said Amy Rademaker, rural farm safety coordinator at Carle.  “We will do three safety day events this spring in Monticello, Georgetown and Gibson City.  Then we will do additional events in the fall.”

Rademaker went on to add, “ We couldn’t begin to do this without the generous support of our business partners particularly Bunge, who supply us with volunteers to help act as group leaders that accompany the groups of students and their teachers around to the different presentations.”

On this warm spring day, 459 fifth and sixth grade students and 25 teachers from Judith Giacoma Elementary School, Pine Crest Elementary School, Mary Miller Junior High, Salt Fork South, Salt Fork Junior High and Prairieview-Ogden South all came to the Georgetown Fairgrounds to hear and see presentations at 12 different stations concerning some aspect of rural and small town safety.

The students were divided into groups of 38 students each that were paired with teachers and volunteer group leaders to usher the students from one 40-minute presentation to the next.

At the grain safety presentation, Dave Newcomb, grain safety specialist with Bunge, explained to the students the dangers of being around stored grain.

According to Newcomb, it takes 300 pounds of lift to pull a person out of grain that is knee deep.  Newcomb allowed each student to pull on a rope that was connected to a meter that registered the amount of pull each student could exert in attempting to pull someone from grain that was knee deep.

In another area, Troy Davis, investigator with the Illinois State Police, told students about the hazards of picking up any discard bottles or other items found in rural areas.

“Vermilion County has the distinction of being the #1 county for meth labs in the state,” Davis told students.  “I strongly urge you to never pick up any soft drink or energy drink bottle you find discarded in a rural area.  Meth is made from mixing some very hazardous chemicals together and just coming in contact with some of these chemicals can cause harm to your skin.”

Davis conducted a test with two of the students by having one of them pick up a bottle, setting the bottle back down and then shaking hands with the other student.

Using a “black light”, Davis showed the students how trace amounts of the chemical on the bottle were passed from the person picking up the bottle to the person he shook hands with.

Davis said that while the substance used in the demonstration wasn’t hazardous, it could have been if it had been used in meth production and that if you touch your face or mouth with a contaminated hand it could cause severe injury.

Over at the internet safety presentation, Christine Fuller, cyber crime specialist with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, spoke to students about online safety.

Fuller told students to always be careful of whom they interact with online and be extremely cautious in sharing any photos or other personal information online.  She also told the students to report any instance of bullying online to a parent, guardian, teacher or other trusted adult.

In all there were 23 local business contributors that helped make this year’s Progressive Agriculture Foundation Farm Safety Days possible and those contributors provided over 80 volunteers to help with all of the students that attended.

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