Young people also may provide a much needed service. Childcare remains a daunting issue, especially during busy times. “The extended farm family is not as common as it used to be,” Reed says. “Grandmother may not be around to look after the kids during harvest.” And that’s a vulnerable time as busy adults may take their eyes off toddlers for just a second to handle a chore. “When children are in a work area they have to have direct supervision.”

Cooperation between agencies, organizations and families may offer some help, Reed says. “4-H programs train and certify kids to be baby sitters. Families can get together and hire some of those 4-H kids to provide day care at a nearby church or community center during peak work times.

A significant safety factor lies with the child’s desire to please. They grow up on the farm, learn early on the value of work and want to be a part of the operation. That’s where parents have to step in and determine what task is “developmentally appropriate,” Reed says. “Remember supervision within arm’s reach. But we have to be grounded in reality.

“We are coming up with more education opportunities,” Reed says. “But we know that education and regulation are not enough. We have to change the tradition.”

Reed says farm families should evaluate the appropriate tasks for their children. Tradition should be put on a back burner. “It’s a lot easier to bury a tradition than it is to bury a child,” she says. 

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