The excitement of finally getting into the field to plant corn or milo or soybeans and the preparation for wheat harvest has most Kansas farm families busy from dawn until well after dusk.
The Kansas Farm Bureau reminds these families that the excitement spreads quickly to the youngest members of the family and that kids love the belch of diesel smoke, the roar of engines and the sheer power of the equipment that is part of the season.
Soon, school will be out and kids will be chomping at the bit to be part of the activity. Kansas Farm Bureau says parents should resist the urge to let children participate.
During the summer months, never invite children to ride in the tractor, says Holly Higgins, KFB safety director.
"Stress that your youngsters must stay away from machinery," Higgins says. "Never let them play or hide under or around machinery like tractors."
John Schlageck, well-known commentator and former northwest Kansas farm kid, writes a regular column for the Kansas Farm Bureau.
He remembers tossing a lasso around the grain auger and climbing into the grain bin of the combine, pretending the machine was the Rocky Mountains and he was Jim Bridger. Many other farm kids remember playing in wagonloads of grain, climbing augers, driving the tractor to pick up baled hay and, by age 12 (or younger, depending on size), running the swather or the baler.
Schlageck says that no matter how nostalgic today's parents and grandparents feel, it is essential to remember that safety experts label agriculture one of the most hazardous occupations, and farm children are routinely exposed to the same hazards as their parents. Each year, hundreds of children are killed, and thousands more are injured in farm-related incidents, according to National Safety Council statistics.
Education and awareness are the key ingredients to help make the farm a safer place for children to play, Higgins says. Brushing up on some of the potential hazards can also make it safer for parents.
A few of the safety measures that she encourages include:
Helmets for children who want learn to ride horses
Awareness of signs that animals may be getting aggressive, including pawing the ground, snorting or raised hair and laid-back ears
Reminders that large animals are strong and heavy, and they can be unpredictable; remain calm, speak quietly and move slowly
Be aware of chemical and electrical hazards and keep children away from places in the barn or the grain bins where they may be exposed to them
Stress the dangers of paying around or in stored grain facilities including bins, trucks and wagons. Entrapment in grain happens fast and is almost always fatal.