Round bales are better than just about any jungle gym, but playing on the family farm can come with serious consequences.
Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the Unites States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 12,000 youth suffered injuries on farms in 2014, 4,000 of which were due to agricultural work, per agency statistics.
To combat the issue, the Sauk County Health Department hosts an annual Rural Safety Day Camp to teach kids important lessons about staying safe in the country. This year’s 25th annual event featured eight safety demonstrations on chemicals, animals, ATVs, electricity, farm equipment, the internet, fire, water and firearms.
“We’re trying to reduce accident percentages and make kids more aware of their surroundings,” said Sauk County Health Department educator Cassidy Walsh. “I really hope they take time to look and be more cautious when they’re playing in rural areas — especially when they’re out in the country.”
Walsh added that this year’s Rural Safety Day included fewer presenters to promote longer, more interactive lessons for students. The Health Department coordinates the event each year with the Sauk County Rural Safety Day Committee. The panel is comprised of representatives from area emergency services, health care providers, county agencies and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Students from Baraboo, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and surrounding areas are coming to the Sauk County Fairgrounds throughout the week for the safety demonstrations. Local agencies, businesses and FFA members are coordinating each day’s activities.
One station led by retired Police Chief Dennis Kluge and Sauk County Emergency Management officials Jeff Jelinek and Tracy Hameu taught students about chemical safety and poison control. With a few smoky, smelly chemical reactions, they showed kids that just because a liquid is clear doesn’t mean it’s water.
“That’s what we get a lot of times,” Jelinek said. “They might jokingly pretend that they’re going to drink something because of peer pressure or something else. We’re trying to get them to think before they act, and if they’re not sure, talk to an adult.”
Austin Sandmire of McFarlanes’ Retail & Service Center in Sauk City led a farm equipment safety demonstration Tuesday. He taught kids about basic machinery inspections, power transfer output shafts, and let them sit behind the wheel of a brand-new tractor. Sandmire said seeing the students’ enthusiasm was a highlight of the day.
“I don’t know if these kids are from an agricultural background, but they’re participating and they seem to be enjoying what they’re doing,” he said. “That’s good to see out of rural area kids — getting involved and enjoying agriculture.”