Will’s World: Let’s ensure farm kids are alright this summer

It’s mid-July, which can only mean one thing: school summer holidays are imminent.

The Evans girls are about to crash collectively into my relatively peaceful weekday breakfast times with all the power and finesse of a runaway freight train and four heifer calves in a China shop combined.

See also: Safety for children on farms – top tips form an ag surveyor

About the author

Will Evans
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Will Evans farms beef cattle and arable crops across 200ha near Wrexham in North Wales in partnership with his wife and parents.
Read more articles by Will Evans

Visitors will emphatically attest that our household is not a quiet one. Despite being semi-deaf these days like all good middle-aged farmers, I’ve even been known to don ear defenders at times.

The present Mrs Evans and I live in hope that one day in the future, when they’ve all grown up and left home, we’ll once again be able to continue the quiet and civilised conversation that was so rudely interrupted when our eldest was born nearly 13 years ago.

In the meantime, we wouldn’t have it any other way and it’s a joy to see and hear their feverish excitement about the end of term.

Golden days

Remember those days? When six long weeks of golden summer stretched ahead of you, with endless possibilities and all kinds of wild adventures just waiting to be had.

For those of us fortunate enough to have grown up on farms with all the associated freedom of being let loose to climb trees, dam brooks, make dens and any number of other similar country childhood experiences, the memories from that time will surely live with us well into our old age.

I’ll forever be grateful for having that kind of upbringing, and I always wanted it for my own children too.

But alongside all the fun of having them at home and getting to witness them making their own special memories together, there are also worries for us as parents.

The fact is that farming, along with the rest of society, has changed significantly in a generation.

As we all know, there are fewer people around on farms generally, machinery has got far larger and much more powerful, and both financial margins and weather windows to get crops in seem tighter than ever before.

The result is what feels like constantly rising pressure levels on farming families to get the job done and the bills paid.

It’s a dangerous combination, and something that keeps me awake at night during this time of year.

How do we keep our children safe on the farm while also allowing them all the associated benefits of growing up here?

I ask that question rhetorically, because I certainly don’t know the answer, and I’m not convinced that anyone else does either given the unique situation of many of us living in our workplaces.

Safe and sound

I suppose we can only take the issue seriously and follow the guidelines available to us from organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Yellow Wellies.

Despite all the excellent campaigns of recent years and the resulting growing awareness around safety in the industry generally, far too many serious accidents involving children still occur.

Every time I read about yet another one happening, I find it desperately upsetting.

I can’t begin to imagine the levels of trauma and grief it causes for the families involved, and I don’t know how anyone could possibly get over such heartbreak – I know I couldn’t.

So as Farm Safety Week draws to a close, let’s not forget its timely reminders.

It’s worth all of us with children at home this summer refreshing ourselves on some of the recommendations.

Even if doing so just keeps what we already know front of mind, it has got to be worth it if it prevents a potential tragedy.