Following child's farming-related death, local family offers support

Published: May. 17, 2017 at 3:18 PM CDT
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Amanda Smith's sons Maric and Kohler have a lot of responsibilities on their family farm in Ogdensburg.

"Which one do you want to feed?” she routinely asks.

The family says the National Farm Center's recommendation that 16-years-old is the appropriate age to begin operating machinery is not realistic. They're speaking out following the death of 3-year-old killed in Loyal this week after being run over by a skid steer driven by a 5-year-old sibling.

Smith said her boys knew farm life before they could walk.

"He goes and loads corn silage with the skid steer. He doesn't do it unsupervised,” she explained of Kohler, age 8.

A skid steer is the machinery a 5-year-old in Clark County was operating Monday, when he ran over his brother -- a familiar story to Smiths.

"It was Memorial Day weekend and I had actually ran to Waupaca to get some pizzas. Kohler and Maric were being little boys and the skid steer got started. All of a sudden, I got a phone call 'You have to hurry up. Kohler just ran Maric over with the skid steer',” she recalled of a similar situation

Thankfully, Maric survived.

"You live and you learn. We had to learn the hard way but we always taught safety,” Smith said.

Bryan Weichelt is a project scientist the National Farm Medicine Center. He tracks media reports of farm injuries to prevent more accidents from occurring.

"It's heartbreaking,” he said.

He said farm accident involving children happen more often then one might think.

National Farm Medicine Center recommends the age of 16 for operating farm machinery. However, Weichalt can remember working on the farm as a child himself.

"Oftentimes you want kids involved. And I understand the hectic nature of farming,” he said.

They encourage families to keep children away from work sites and off skid steers, tractors and ATVs.

Smith it's not likely farm families will keep their kids in the house.

"You can't keep them locked up, you can keep them in from of the TV. Families that farm...We're not a big operation. We do it together,” Smith said.

She said that means teaching her kids every job on the farm, including how to operate machinery from a young age.

"He's eight years old and he could run this farm,” Smith explained.

Precisely what Kohler wants to do.

Smith recognizes the risks. But they're chances, she says, every parent takes.

“I understand the risks. I really do,” she said.

And to another family and their 5-year-old. She wants to show support.

"I don't know exactly what it's like, but I know what your initial feelings were. People are quick to judge. Don't listen. You're not a bad mom,” Smith said.

Data collected from media reports by the National Farm Center over the last five and a half years, showed that 75 percent of farm accidents involved children age 17 and younger-- While 50 percent involved children age 6 and younger.