Farms are wonderful places for children to grow up. They are a fantastic place of learning too. Many farms host organised visits for school children throughout the year, which helps them to learn about where their food comes from and how the industry is vital to everyday life. And our own children learn about independence, responsibility and family relationships are strengthened. But farms and farmyards are not playgrounds.
During these extraordinary times, with schools closed and parents having to juggle more than ever, we must make every effort to keep our children safe. Farms can be dangerous places for everyone, not just children, but children are put at great risk of injury when playing, visiting or helping out around the farm.
We’ve caught up with FUW Meirionnydd member Rachael Madley Davies to find out how they address the challenge on farm.
To say the past few weeks have been a challenge would be an understatement, but I count myself as lucky and acknowledge that they have been challenging for everyone, more so for some.
Along with lambing and calving at home and working full-time (albeit from home) in the dairy sector, we now find ourselves juggling the children, at short notice and rather unexpectedly whilst the country attempts to control the spread of Covid-19. I’m not going to lie; I have probably consumed more chocolate and wine and not had a lot of sleep in the past few weeks, but we have managed.
Despite the peer group pressures there is simply no time for formalised home-schooling in our house, but a rough agenda of schoolwork, play and Netflix combined with mostly threats and bribery seems to get us through most days. The good weather has meant that the girls have wanted to be outside more, and I understand the temptation for many to send farm children off out the door, but we must remember that farmyards are work places and are not safe for children.
I am really honest with both girls, even the youngest at four years, regarding the dangers that the farmyard poses. My intention has never been to frighten them but to make them aware of the real dangers on their doorstep, and the fact that farms can injure and kill both children and adults. This hasn’t phased them, but they do understand where they can and can’t go, and how to behave if they hear an engine. I am also strict with them not being able to go on the quadbike or tractor explaining that it is against the law for them to go on them and that we would get into trouble if they did.
I have ensured that they have their own outside areas that are safe, tractor free and have plenty to occupy them; making a garden or backyard a suitable zone for children can help entertain them.
Despite my workload drastically increasing as a result of Covid-19 I set aside a small amount of time roughly every hour or so allowing the girls and I to check the sheep, check for eggs or walk to the post box. This brief outdoor time with me satisfies their appetite to be outside but ensures that they are supervised.
I think the main thing to remember is that despite work or farm pressures your children are your most important priority, and that their safety and wellbeing is paramount.