South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) invests in farm safety year-round, because it has a direct impact on family farmers, ranchers and their communities, says Doug Sombke, SDFU President.
“South Dakota’s rural communities are tight-knit. So, if someone is injured in a farm or ranch-related accident, it impacts not only their family, but the entire community. Through our farm safety education efforts, we hope South Dakota youth and families think about safety. And ultimately prevent injuries all together,” explains Sombke, who farms with his sons near Conde.
Sombke says today with his sons working on the farm and his young grandkids playing on the farm, farm safety is something he thinks about a lot more than when he first started farming more than 30 years ago.
Keeping farm safety top of mind is the goal of programming SDFU develops for their annual summer camps, held across the state and attended by more than 1,000 youth each summer and the Farm Safety Trailer they designed and began taking to schools, fairs, community, 4-H and FFA events, explains Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator. “Kids learn best by doing,” Forman says. “So, we made sure each safety lesson exhibited in this trailer engages youth in a hands-on activity.”
For example, youth can try on a safety harness while learning about grain bin safety; drive an ATV simulator to learn how to safely drive an ATV and through the 3-D model farm, they can learn about high-risk areas of the farm and how to be safe.
“When learning is hands-on, it engages students’ thought processes, so they understand what they are learning,” explains Tracy Chase, a science and agriculture education teacher at McCook Central High School.
More than 7,000 South Dakota youth have visited the Farm Safety Trailer since it hit the road in 2018.
“The trailer took more than a year to design and develop, but the result is worth it,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “The hands-on nature of this trailer enhances our educational mission and allows us to provide farm safety education to youth year-round.”
Team-Up for Safety Quiz Bowl
In addition to farm safety programming geared to elementary and middle school-age youth, SDFU hosts an annual Team-Up for Safety Quiz Bowl during the SD State FFA Convention, where high school youth test their farm safety knowledge, competing to qualify for the championship round held annually during the South Dakota State Fair.
“Farm safety is a very important aspect of farming that is underestimated at times and if you take it for granted, it can be the difference between preventing an accident or serious injury or even death,” explains Logan Zemlicka, a member of the Wolsey Wessington FFA Chapter when they qualified for the State Fair championship.