Milestone reached in farm safety and health education effort
We all hear the horror stories of losing a loved one to a farm-related incident. The families left behind ponder what would have happened "if only." If only he had been more careful, if only she wasn't in such a hurry, if only we had known.
Moved by stories of farming-related tragedies, Jack Odle, editor of The Progressive Farmer, launched an effort in 1995 to help prevent unintentional death on the farm. This effort evolved to become the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® Program. Now in its 17th year, the effort has reached its one millionth participant and is continuing the mission of eliminating farm injury and death by providing education and training to make farm, ranch and rural life safer and healthier for children and their communities through its Safety Day program.
Penn State Extension Children and Youth Development educator Jana Davidson hosted the one millionth Safety Day participant on Sept. 14, 2011, in Clearfield, Pa. "Hosting this event is probably my favorite day of the year," says Davidson. "[The kids] are getting so much education, but they're having so much fun! The impact is huge. From the staff to the national sponsors, they're helping us do what we couldn't do alone at a local level." 2011 marks Davidson's fifth Safety Day, which started with 75 kids and has now grown to over 200 at each event.
Today, Safety Days are made possible by the Progressive Agriculture Foundation® (PAF), an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit with a board of directors from within the agriculture industry and an operating budget of $2.6 million. The program's curriculum has grown from basic farm safety to also include a focus on rural issues like hunting, ATV usage and even childhood obesity. While the Foundation's leadership is proud to hit the millionth participant mark, they stress there is still much to be done. PAF hopes to reach its second-millionth participant within the next 10 years.
"The number of children injured each year on farms has declined 59 percent since 1998, but there were still 15,012 farm injuries to children reported in 2009,1" says Bob Marshall of Bunge North America and PAF board president. "We view even one injury as one too many. The educational outreach of the Safety Day program is one of the efforts that has made this decline possible. We plan to work hard to do even more in the coming 10 years with the generous support of our many new and long-term sponsors who donate both financially and with employee resources."
In addition to loyal sponsors, the program is largely made possible by a volunteer base that contributes time and skills to help run individual Safety Day events. "We can't thank our volunteers enough," says Susan Reynolds, executive director - programs for PAF. "We would not be able to reach as many children as we do without their gifts of time and resources." In 2011 alone, approximately 18,000 volunteers have helped with PAF efforts. As many as 230,000 volunteers have helped throughout the last 17 years.
The core mission of the Safety Day program is simple: to keep children safe and healthy. By focusing on topics that are relevant to children in rural areas, the Safety Day program has successfully reached over one million children and volunteers, and averages 400 Safety Day events a year, all over North America and the U.S. territories.
Davidson continues, "I can't say enough good things about PAF. This is a program I truly believe in. Reaching one million participants is a milestone, and I look forward to helping PAF continue to reduce farm incidents and death among children and in our communities."
For more information about PAF and to support the cause, go to www.progressiveag.org.
About Progressive Agriculture Foundation
The Progressive Agriculture Safety Day program is the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America and a program of the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation. The Foundation's mission is to provide education and training to make farm, ranch and rural life safer and healthier for children and their communities. In 2008, PAF was awarded the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance National Charity Seal, demonstrating its commitment to accountability and ethical practices. Safety Day applications are due each July 15 for Safety Days that will be conducted the following calendar year.