Building a Better Community with Youth Safety

Long shadows were forming under the live oak trees at Florida Best Blueberry Farm, as families and 
volunteers gathered for the first Citrus County 4-H Progressive Agriculture Safety event. Each 
year, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days© reach tens of thousands of kids across the United States 
and Canada with potential life-saving education.

According  to  the  National  Safety  Council  (NSC),  injuries  are  the  major  cause  of  
childhood emergency department and hospital visits. Yes, kids will be kids and bruises and scrapes 
are a part of growing up. However, unintentional injuries cause nearly 12,000 deaths in children 
and young adults, ages 1-19, every year. Most of these injuries are linked to falls and drownings. 
In Florida, ninety-eight children died from drowning in 2021, an increase from sixty-four deaths in 
2020. Often, these childhood injuries are preventable. Citrus County Extension wants to reduce 
injuries and increase safety for youth across the county.

Cindy and Tony Russ, Florida Best Blueberries, generously provided their blueberry farm east of 
Inverness as the host site for the event. They know first-hand how quickly an accident on the farm 
can change a family especially because farming is the most hazardous occupation in the U.S.¹

Youth and their families rotated through educational stations to learn about safety and health with 
fun, safe, and hands-on activities. By partnering with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, youth 
learned to be safe on the water with whistles, sharing a water plan, and avoiding swimming alone. 
Brian Thomas, IRBY construction company, taught electrical safety sharing his “tools of the trade. 
Dr.  Serap  Gorucu,  from  the  University  of  Florida’s  Agricultural  and  Biological  
Engineering Department brought a unique tool. The power take-off (PTO) simulator allowed the 
participants to  relate  reaction  time  to  rotation.  At  9-16  revolutions/second,  loose  
pants,  boot  laces,  and jewelry can be wrapped around the PTO very quickly. This is because 
reaction time is much slower than the speed of an engaged PTO.

Youth attendees were surprised to learn the amount of sugar in their favorite sodas and juices. 
When presented with the choice of a sugared beverage or fruit-infused water, 75% were able to 
identify the water as a drink lower  in  sugar  and  “better for  staying hydrated”.  At  the 
mental health awareness station,  youth self-identified  stressors, including homework,  school, 
chores, and family responsibilities. They shared peer to peer strategies for reducing stress. One 
youth demonstrated a breathing technique that has worked for them. As a result of attending the 
Safety Day, youth were able to interact with safety-trained adults and practice safety skills.

This event was sponsored by the Citrus County 4-H Foundation, Florida Best Blueberries, Ag-Pro of 
Crystal River, State Farm-David Rom, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 
(FDACS), Florida Department of Health in Citrus County, and Hernando-Citrus Farm Bureau.

4-H is the youth development program of the University of Florida offered in cooperation with 
Citrus County. Our mission is to support youth as they gain knowledge and life skills and grow to 
become productive, responsible citizens.

1.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agriculture sector is the most dangerous 
in the country. There are 573 fatalities each year in the farming profession, which equals 23 
deaths per 100,000 workers. Sep 21, 2021

By Marnie Ward, Ph.D.