Farming is a family business in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky has one of the highest numbers of farms in the U.S. -- almost 76,000 farms covering almost 13 million acres in 2017, according to the most recent data from the USDA Census of Agriculture.
There are more than 6,200 very small farms of less than 10 acres and more than 24,000 farms between 10 and 49 acres in the state. Small farming is on the rise -- there were about 43% more very small farms and 2% more small farms in 2017 than five years before, according to the census.
Farming families are a lynchpin for Kentucky's $5.7 billion agriculture industry. And kids are a big part of those farming families. Growing up on a farm gives kids all kinds of valuable skills and experience -- but it also comes with risk that many don't realize until it's too late.
Every day in the U.S., 33 children are injured in agricultural accidents, and one child dies in an agricultural accident every three days, according to the National Ag Safety Database and recent reporting by Kentucky Health News.
Kids are most often injured by falls, animals and machinery. The most dangerous machinery by far is tractors, which are responsible for more than 40% of farm deaths of children under 15, according to KHN.
The good news is it's relatively easy to keep farming kids safe just by being aware that farming activities can pose different levels of danger depending on how old someone is. Guidelines available from cultivatesafety.org list appropriate ages for many of the most common farming activities, including:
• Bending (for example, picking up crops), 7 and older
• Cleaning pens and hutches, 12 and older
• Cleaning grain bins and service alleys, 14 and older
• Climbing or composting, 10 and older
• Harvesting fruit trees, 16 and older
• Operating a lawn mower or pressure washer, 12 and older
• Driving a tractor, 14 and older
• Operating utility vehicles, ATVs, drones and self-propelled equipment, 16 and older
• Working with large animals, 12 and older.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is tackling the issue of child safety on farms head-on with a new campaign called "Keep Kids Away From Tractors." The campaign uses the slogan "it's easier to bury a tradition than a child," highlighting the risk of a common practice of having a child ride with an adult on a tractor.
Riding on a tractor with your parent is a favorite childhood memory for many Kentuckians, but it's unfortunately all too easy for a hole, bump or rock to throw a child from a tractor and cause injury or even death.
Farming is a tradition we should be proud to pass down through the generations. We should work hard to pass on farming safety to our children and grandchildren, as well, so that the farming tradition can remain strong.