Five of us from the Hay & Forage Grower staff recently volunteered to teach nine- to 13-year-olds various aspects of safety sponsored by Progressive Agriculture Foundation’s Safety Day program.
The program was hosted by the Academy of Sciences and Agriculture, called AFSA High School for short. It’s a public charter high school just down the road in the St. Paul suburb in which I live.
AFSA, created for city kids to learn about ag-related careers, offers students ag courses in five career paths: animal, environmental, food, mechanical and plant sciences.
The school administrators know that agriculture makes up 20-25% of all jobs in the U.S. And we know how hard it is to find employees with the necessary technical ag background. Well, this school, which is set near many large ag companies – including Cargil, CHS, Land O'Lakes and General Mills – is working to provide that.
Safety’s always been a component of the school’s curriculum, but new this summer was the Safety Day program. It focused on ATV, water, bike, hand-tool, chemical and animal safety as well as disability awareness and Internet and sun safety.
The kids were all shapes and sizes with varying attention spans, but all were pretty interested in the subject I was given to teach: chemical safety. They each had to try to identify, in 12 sets of two jars each, which items could be dangerous. For example, one two-jar set held motor oil and maple syrup. The consistency and colors of the liquids were very similar. In two other jars, one held a sweet candy in pastel colors and the other, antacids that appeared slightly more appetizing.
It was amazing to the students – and to me – that so many medicines and cleaning products looked like candy or fruit drinks or foods that we ingest. They quickly got the point of the exercise: Always look at labels before you use something.
It’s a point we all could use a reminder of, especially now that fields and pastures are actually producing and many farmers are trying to make up for a late spring.
Don’t be in such a rush that you don’t read those chemical labels. Don’t try for a quick fix; first shut off your machinery or the electricity. Protect your skin from the sun. Don’t jump off tractors or wagons – at our Farm Progress Hay Expo last week, I saw several “seasoned farmers” who hunched over as they walked. I’ll bet they’d hopped down too many times from large equipment.
Also, take it slow and careful around animals. A few years ago I interviewed a farmer still recovering after practically cracking his head on a fence that a cow had jostled.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. Stay safe.
At right, the importance of animal safety is discussed by Jon Greener, Hay & Forage Grower sales representative, with students during Safety Day.