SD Farmers Union camp stresses importance of farm safety

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Farm Forum

Miniature explosions, simulated rollovers, goats and a grain bin engulfment chamber greeted campers at the Farmers Union Safety Camp on July 21 at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we are 100 years old and going just as strong as ever,” South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke said.

The event, put on by the Brown County Farmers Union and local cooperatives, aims to teach kids ages 6 to 13 the importance of safety on the farm, along with the vital role farm cooperatives play in a community like Aberdeen.

“One of the really cool things that we’re doing that’s unique at this camp is providing the kids with some farm safety knowledge,” said Mike Traxinger, corporate attorney for Wheat Growers and education director for Brown County Farmers Union. “Each cooperative that helps sponsor this event today is here donating their time and energy to teach the kids what’s important on the farm in terms of safety.”

Six stations were available for campers to rotate through, each sponsored by one of the co-ops participating – Full Circle Ag, North Central Farmers Elevator, Northern Electric Cooperative, Wheat Growers, James Valley Telecommunications and Aberdeen Federal Credit Union.

One of the most popular stations illustrated the dangers of entering grain bins. A volunteer camper was lowered down into the grain bin simulator and subsequently rescued to show the proper safety measures to take when working around the equipment.

“One of the people in my class got sucked down in there and then they got pulled out again,” camper Mason Spieker, 6, said about the simulator.

“It was actually kind of cool to see. It looks fun,” Jessemy Sharp, 11, added.

For camper Grady Wagner, 6, the electrical safety station and rollover simulator were tied for top activity of the day. At the electrical safety station, campers learned about the dangers of power lines through a practice dummy that was electrocuted. And the South Dakota Highway Patrol ran the rollover simulator for campers and talked about the importance of helmets and other safety gear when riding on a bike or an all-terrain vehicle.

Other stops on the campers’ agendas included animal and livestock safety, where kids got the chance to pet a goat; dust explosion safety, which sent an action figure flying into the air; and chemical and machinery safety, which showcased a real-life science experiment complete with rainbow-hued chemicals.

“It’s been a really great day,” Traxinger said. “We’re excited to have 70 kids out here and hope that they’ll take something away that they’ll learn and use on the farm in their everyday lives.”