|Madison County Co-op Lends A Hand to Farm Safety Day|
Quality Co-op stores are always looking for opportunities to get involved in their communities and few of them could find a more important cause than farm safety. So this May, Madison County Co-op took on the challenge of feeding over 90 at the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day at the Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station in Hazel Green.
Madison County Co-op Manager Keith Griffin was up for the challenge and noted the importance of children learning about agriculture and safety.
"It’s important for us to expose these students to agriculture," Griffin said. "Their parents had more exposure to the farm growing up than children do now and we want to let them know how important it is.
"You never know when they could be exposed to danger. They may have never seen some of the things they’ll see here today. Hopefully, if they come across one of these dangerous situations, they’ll remember the safety lessons they learned here."
Sixth grade students from New Market Middle School and Riverside Christian Academy were excited to attend the event and the group of 11 and 12-year-olds was divided into smaller groups of 10 to 15. Over the course of the morning, the groups rotated to various stations where they were informed of potential dangers around them and were given safety tips to prevent injuries, or even death, should they be faced with one of those dangers.
Some of the topics presented were Bicycle Safety, Firearm Safety, Lawn Equipment Safety, Meth Awareness, Power Take Off (PTO) Safety and Underground Utilities Safety.
Many of the stations provided students with hands-on activities getting them out of their seats and involved with the topic which helped them to stay focused and better learn the message.
Popular stations were Meth Awareness and Underground Utilities Safety. The Meth Awareness Safety featured two Huntsville area police officers who told first-hand accounts of the pitfalls they’d seen involving methamphetamine. After showing before-and-after photographs of people who’d become addicted to the drug, students were inquisitive of how to look out for it and stay away from it.
New Market sixth grade teacher Melissa Cobble noted the need for these students to learn this lesson.
"Meth is more prominent in rural areas, so many of these students may be exposed to meth, but a lot of them don’t know what the effects are," Cobble said. "We hope this will deter them from it and give them knowledge of other risks that are out there."
The Underground Utilities Safety station allowed the students to play a game which was designed to help them learn more about the dangers of hitting buried utility lines when digging. Students were given metal detectors and asked to find color-coated pipe cleaners representing different utility lines. The pipe cleaners were hidden under artificial turf and students raced to find their designated pipe cleaner.
After two hours of rotations, the students’ brains were full, but their tummies were empty. Griffin and his team were ready to meet that need and invited the children to eat hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and a variety of sweets they’d worked hard all morning to prepare.
After lunch, the students gathered outside for two final demonstrations. One station showed students the danger of PTO shafts on tractors. A dummy was placed near the shaft and its arm was touching the shaft, a scenario most any farmer could find themselves in. As the PTO began to turn, students were able to see what could happen to someone’s arm if he or she is not careful as the shaft tore the arm off the dummy.
Next the students learned about the dangers of lawn mowers as one ran over a baby doll sending it in pieces across the yard.
Program Director Gokul Ghale said while the demonstrations may be a bit extreme, the students will never forget the lessons they learned.
"It shows them what to do and what not to do when it comes to safety," he said. "A lot of these kids came from a farm area so they need to see what the dangers are and become aware of them."
The event wrapped up on a more positive note as the children and their teachers took a hayride around the Research Station.
Rhonda Britton who works for the Cooperative Extension System volunteered at the event and noted the Safety Day was a success.
"All of the students are very attentive, they’re paying attention," she said. "They’re listening and asking really good questions and they’re having a good time."
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.