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    Farm Safety For Kids | Summer 2006 Out Here Magazine

    Marilyn Adams' book, Rhythm of the Seasons: A Journey Beyond Loss, tells how her family dealt with the death of her young son in a farm accident.

    Mom works to spare rural families her tragedy

    By Renee Elder

    Photography courtesy of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids

    Keith Algreen was proud to be part of the work team on his family's Iowa farm.

    The energetic 11-year-old even stayed home from school the first day of harvest in 1986 to help his stepfather, Darrell, bring in wagonloads of grain from the fields.

    But tragedy hit that day when Keith, who was transferring shelled corn into a storage bin, suffocated inside a two-ton pile of grain.

    "Keith was in the barnyard unloading while Darrell was combining; that was our mistake," his mother, Marilyn Adams recalls. "He was an 11-year-old with an adult responsibility, and he was unsupervised."

    Keith apparently climbed into the wagonload of corn, where he was pulled under by suction created as the grain emptied downward through the wagon's small trapdoor.

    Along with bucolic charm, farm life can hold potential danger for children, especially around farm machinery and agricultural chemicals. About 100 children die and another 33,000 are injured each year in farm-related accidents, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.

    Even as she struggled with her own grief, Adams was determined to protect other farm children. Within a year of Keith's death, she founded Farm Safety 4 Just Kids to educate farm families about the dangers of gravity-flow grain wagons, like the one her son was using the day he died.

    Gravity-flow wagons look like big metal boxes and are used to move grain from the field to storage bins, says Mindy Williamson, community relations director for Farm Safety 4 Just Kids.

    A grain auger — a long, thick tube with a rotating screw-like device inside — is usually attached to the wagon's open trapdoor and turns swiftly, carrying the grain from the wagon into the storage area.

    No one knows why Keith climbed inside the wagon that day as grain flowed into the auger, but it's not an uncommon action, Williamson says.

    "Many times, when you are unloading the grain, it will get stuck to the sides of the wagon. Kids or adults climb inside to scoop it from the sides so it will go down into the open door," she says.

    That is extremely dangerous, she adds. "The grain going out of the trapdoor is similar to water going out of a bathtub; it circles and creates a suction. Grain weighs thousands of pounds, though, and the more you fight, the faster you can be pulled under."

    Now, 20 years after her son's accident, Adams continues to travel the country speaking to groups and training educators to prevent all farm accidents involving kids.

    "We try to raise awareness, especially for urban people who purchase small acreages or hobby farms," Adams says. "Their awareness level may be less than those who grew up on farms."

    Tractors cause the most deaths and injuries, statistics show. Often, victims are extra riders under age 5 who fall off and get run over, Williamson says.

    "Never let someone ride along on a tractor," Williamson says, "no matter what their age."

    Renee Elder is a freelance writer in Raleigh, NC.