FAIRBURY – It’s all about the safety of our area children. That’s why a group of Jefferson County residents representing several agencies and organizations have worked together for nearly 20 years to offer Safety Days for area youth. They know the numbers: statistics from the National Children’s Center for Rural Agriculture Health and Safety show that every three days a child dies in an agriculture-related incident, and every day about 33 children are injured in agriculture-related incidents.
Progressive Ag Safety Day will celebrate its 20th year in Jefferson County with the annual Progressive Ag Safety Day set for Thursday, Aug. 3. With an average of 100 participants each year, Safety Day has reached nearly 2,000 participants in its 19 years of serving our area.
Many businesses and organizations have supported Safety Day – and a few have been part of the core planning team since the first Safety Day was offered in 1998: Nebraska Extension in Jefferson County, Fairbury FFA, and Jefferson Community Health & Life. Jefferson County Farm Safety 4 Just Kids became the organizational entity in the early years of the program. Jefferson County emergency services and law enforcement have participated by staging a mock accident since the early years.
The first Farm Safety Day was held in Jefferson County in 1998. Similar types of programs were starting in many areas, and Extension Educator Bob Stritzke thought it was important for the safety of the children of Jefferson County. He contacted Lana Likens, director of public relations at Jefferson Community Health Center, and the Fairbury FFA chapter, and planned an activity-filled day to put an emphasis on farm safety. The team utilized resources from the national organization Farm Safety 4 Just Kids.
The committee grew after the first year, and soon a local chapter of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids was formed to plan, organize and host Safety Day. A few years later the partnership was expanded, and the Safety Day became an official Progressive Agriculture Safety Day. The Progressive Agriculture Foundation now provides goody bags, t-shirts, liability coverage, and training for the Safety Day coordinator.
Gary Shinn, a Fairbury farmer, has been a long-time planning team member and was Safety Day coordinator for a number of years. He said it was his son Jarrod who sold him on the value of Safety Day.
In one of the early Safety Days, Jarrod, 3, attended as a preschooler. One of the sessions was electrical safety by Norris Public Power, which demonstrated the danger of electrical lines, and stressed the importance of being aware of the location of overhead lines and whether equipment would contact the wires. Several months later while riding with his dad combining, Jarrod saw some electrical wires and questioned his dad.
“Are you sure we can get under there, dad?”
Shinn said he knew it was significant that Jarrod remembered that – and was watching for the potential hazard at the age of 3. “It was pretty neat,” Shinn said.
Jarrod, now 22, participated until he was old enough to be a volunteer, and then volunteered throughout high school through the Fairbury FFA.
The mission of a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day is simple: to provide education, training and resources to make farm and ranch life safer and healthier for children and their communities.
The local committee often gives parents this important message: “We cannot accident-proof any child, but we certainly hope the lessons learned at Progressive Ag Safety Day provide a great foundation for making wise decisions and good choices.”
“Jefferson Community Health & Life is proud to be a part of this community safety initiative,” said Likens, who has served as coordinator for eight years, and been a part of the committee since the first Safety Day.
Educational sessions offered throughout the years have included many agriculture specific topics – which are beneficial not only to children who live on farms, but also to any child who may visit a farm, the county fair, or any other agricultural-related location. Sessions have included safety regarding livestock, farm equipment, grain, anhydrous, chemicals, hidden hazards on the farm, and more.
Sessions have also covered topics beneficial to all children – whether or not they live or visit farms, such as: sun safety, healthy lifestyles, seatbelt safety, insects, Diggers Hotline, fire safety, electrical safety, stretching, reaction times, lawn mower safety, internet safety, propane safety, safety around pets, dealing with being home alone, firearm safety, ATV safety, weather, water safety, disaster preparedness and more.
“Each year we try to have a few agriculture-related topics and many topics appropriate for all children,” Likens said. “We rotate topics from year to year and demonstrate them in different ways so if children participate year after year they can learn about many different topics, and some of the same topics in new and different ways.”
Stritzke said he is glad Safety Day has continued for the area’s children – and knows there’s always more work to do.
“Certainly we’ve exposed some kids to potential hazards. We’ve raised awareness for parents, too, in many cases – of safety issues and things that need to be taken care of,” Stritzke said. “It’s all about creating awareness and helping people to take their time, pay attention and think about what could go wrong.”
Stritzke himself has a scar on his ankle from a PTO accident that happened when he was a child. He has taught PTO safety several times to reinforce to children and adults how quickly an accident can happen, and the importance of following safety guidelines.
Safety Day would not be entering its 20th year in Jefferson County if it were not for the support of many local businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the years, Likens said.
“While I won’t try to name them all for fear of leaving someone out, we want to thank everyone who has helped to keep Safety Day progressing and able to provide safety education for our area’s children,” Likens said. “It has been a tremendously successful community partnership.”