‘The whole area of farm safety inspections needs a PR makeover’

The farming community is still “too complacent” when it comes to the risk of farm accidents involving children, AgriKids founder Alma Jordan has warned.

Jordon, who was recently honoured for her work in promoting farm safety among young people, contant people need to be more cognisant of the dos and don’ts.

“We all have those nostalgic moments from our own upbringing on farms; so of course it is something we want to share with our children.

“But those times and these are not a like-for-like situation,” contended Alma who received the award for her initiatives in farm safety education and building awareness in rural communities, at the All-Ireland Business Summit in Croke Park.

There are times on our farms where too high an expectation is placed on the children to handle an adult only situation or duty and this is not fair.

“They are children; they need time to be mature and grow into performing those key roles on the farm,” she said.

Stages

Although the AgriKids founder agrees wholeheartedly with showing children how the farm works; she advises that it should be done in stages.

“What better way to learn responsibility, compassion for animals, animal husbandry and enterprise, but to do it in stages.

Start with animal feeding. Then move to keeping a yard tidy, sweeping out sheds and, as the law permits, allow your teens to progress to machinery handling.

Alma has been reaching 1,000 children per month this year through her programme of events which are supported by Zurich Insurance.

“Being recognised for my efforts in educating children and achieving all-stars accreditation is a great source of pride for me. I look forward to continuing to meet, and indeed exceed, the standards that have been set.

“I also look forward to achieving greater recognition within the sector and having the opportunity to collaborate with the various stakeholders in our mutual mission to improve farm safety for the 140,000 family farms in Ireland,” she said.

Task force for change

Jordan believes the need to create a generation of change must come from the ability of all stakeholders to pool resources and roll-out a strategy that is cohesive and inclusive of all affected by a farm accident or tragedy.

The ongoing death toll causes her to despair, she acknowledged.

I will continue to despair until all stakeholders come together to address this. Politics needs to be put to one side and a task force made up of key stakeholders and advocates must be established to radically deal with this issue.

“I have called for it before and I will continually to call on the need to put a farm safety authority in place,” she said.

Jordan’s decision to start AgriKids was an easy one.

“Getting it up and running and having it recognised within the sector has been the challenge. Some time ago I decided that I must think bigger, and be bigger, than any barrier that is put in my way.

“I have worked in bringing AgriKids and its resources directly to the people who need it most and to channel my energies into having it recognised within communities as a reliable and growing force,” she said.

Alma also took part in ‘The Farm Safety Experience’ event at Gurteen Agricultural College, Co. Tipperary, last Sunday (April 29).

She will continue with school visits until June.

I’m booked up until the middle of October. The visits were advertised; it’s all word of mouth. If this isn’t proof of the demand and desire for this format of farm safety education, then I don’t know what is.

In June she will attend Farmex – a business and agritech farming conference – at the RDS in Dublin.

‘PR makeover’

Recently her games and apps were featured in the UK agri press and she has been invited to the UK to be part of the Open Farm Sunday events on June 10.

On June 29, she will take part in the Agricultural Society’s Country Kids UK event in Peterborourgh. This event will see over 7,000 children attend a full educational day on farm and country life.

“The idea of being farm safe needs to be a natural instinct and where better to start than with the younger members of our farm families.

Through their influence in encouraging behavioural change, combined with their natural and enthusiastic learning capabilities, we are encouraging positive habits from the get-go.

Responding to the Health and Safety Authority’s intensive farm inspection campaign announcement, Alma contended that the whole area of inspections needs a PR makeover.

“Ultimately it should be viewed as a useful support to farmers; but the word ‘inspections’ throws up such negative connotations of penalties and fines and punishment and that needs to be done away with,” she concluded.