Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

May 3, 2013

Being smart means being safe

Albia students get hands-on education about danger around farms

By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — ALBIA — Though the safety event looked like a fair, one child said it was most fun because they "learned things."

The adults seemed to be getting through to the kids on subjects from mowing grass to riding in farm equipment.

"You never jump out of a moving thing," said Jenna Gronewold, a third-grader.

Asked why, she answered, "Because you could fall on your face."

Though the program is called Ag in the Classroom, Thursday's event was at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, run by the Monroe County Farm Bureau. They work with Morgan Schafbuch, Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) outreach coordinator.

“The farm is a great place to live,” said Schafbuch. “People just need to be mindful of the dangers. Nearly every job on the farm can be dangerous.”

In fact, some safety rules may be familiar to any homeowner, but they're not always practiced by adults.

"If you're on a lawnmower," Jenna said, "make sure it's off and the blade has stopped spinning before you get off. And for a push lawnmower, don't pull it, because you'll cut off your toes."

Officials from the Monroe County Farm Bureau warn that more than 100 American kids are killed each year in accidents on the farm.

"How fast is electricity?" asked Charles VanDePol of Chariton Valley Electric Coop.

Most kids didn't guess that one correctly: It's 186,000 miles per second. And that means if you mess with electricity, he told children, you are not going to outrun the shock.

His associate, Mike Gibler, explained how to leave a tractor or a school bus that is trapped under a live power line.

"You jump off," he said. "And once you are off the bus, you don't reach back to help each other."

When the professionals work on a "hot" area where there is electricity, they use a lot of special gear. Even their rubber gloves have gloves over them.

"The leather gloves protect the rubber, and the rubber gloves protect me," VanDePol told the students as he passed the gloves around.

They also remain visible to drivers, which kids need to do, too. They may not need to go as far as the linemen, who brought their equipment with them. They put out orange cones and wear yellow hard hats and vests. Gibler asked if anyone knew why the colors were different. Even the adults didn't know: The Highway Department, after extensive study of accidents, has ordered that orange be used for things that don't move and yellow for things that do.

Though there were lots of kids from Albia-area farms at the safety event, they were aware that it's the highway that brings in some of the food they eat, but it's families like theirs growing that produce.

"I think a lot of kids are unaware of the source of their food," said Albia teacher Julie Carlton. "They think you go to Jim and Charlie's [market], and that's where food comes from."

She said Farm Bureau and FCSAmerica are two of the groups which visit Lincoln Elementary School in Albia in order to let kids know that it takes smarts and hard work to grow food.

But Jim and Charlie's Affliated Foods was at the event, too. Pineapple may have grown in the ground, but it doesn't grow in Iowa, grocer Mary Clouse told the third-graders. But what about corn, she asked. Yes, it does grow in Iowa, they answered.

Before they started handling food, though, came some basic food safety.

"They've been over to see the animals; they have to [wash their] hands before they have their snack. And we tell them they have to wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them," said the grocer.

Some kids in the U.S. can't identify a fresh squash, an Ottumwa chef once complained. Yet these little guys correctly identified bell peppers and a tomato plant that didn't even have tomatoes hanging on it.

"So what kind of corn is your favorite, frozen, canned or on-the-cob," Clouse asked.

Ten voices called out at once, "on-the-cob!"

One Monroe County Farm Bureau supporter said the Albia kids always surprise the presenters with their level of knowledge and the intelligent questions they ask.

Carlton, the teacher, said a percentage of the children come from farm homes, where they learn a lot about life. It's the specifics of safety adults worked on Thursday. But they also showed kids how the earth itself can be put in danger.

For example, one Monroe County Farm Bureau table had a model of a town. Demonstrators sprayed "rain" onto the roof of a factory, farm fields with too much pesticide and a new lawn with no grass. Industrial waste, chemicals and fertilizer washed away from their locations, and trickled visibly in red to the model's fishing ponds and freshwater sources. Though the town model wasn't a high-tech piece of equipment, kids seemed fascinated. It clearly showed children and adults alike how toxic runoff can move around a community.

The 80 Albia Lincoln school kids each liked something different at the fairgrounds. Jenna, herself a farm kid, said she felt the varied animal exhibit was most popular, though.

"I liked to watch the sheep get sheared. I never get to see that," she said, "because we're at school when the sheep get sheared."