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Event is a safe bet thanks to Jefferson Co. teen

April 30, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

LEETOWN, W.Va. - Heather Ishman is only 18, but she already is pushing the idea of consumer safety.

The Jefferson High School student was working on a community service project for the Jefferson County chapter of the Future Farmers of America when she thought about setting aside a day for home and farm safety.

Ishman's persistence paid off Sunday when Farm and Safety Day opened at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds along Leetown Pike.

The event offered information like how to detect poisonous snakes in West Virginia, how to safely handle guns, how to detect skin cancer and the ins and outs of farm equipment safety. With smaller farms popping up in the Eastern Panhandle, more people are trying farming but might not be familiar with hazards of the profession, like tractor accidents, organizers said.

Small tractors can flip easily, and a demonstration was held Sunday to show how easily the vehicles can turn over.

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Drawings for smoke detectors were to be held and there was a representative from an organization that specializes in adaptive equipment for farmers who are permanently injured.

Ishman said there are many safety issues of which farmers and homeowners need to be aware.

For example, many adults allow children to ride on their laps while operating riding lawn mowers without realizing how dangerous it is for children, Ishman said.

"It's not just farm people and children that get hurt," Ishman said.

Farm and Safety Day was from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and some people were visiting booths around mid-morning. Ishman said she hopes Farm and Safety Day will become an annual event, and organizers talked about possibly holding it during other larger events at the fairgrounds to generate more interest.

The adaptive equipment for farmers was featured by West Virginia AgrAbility, an organization funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The products are designed to help keep farmers on the job or help others deal with physical disabilities.

One of the products being featured Sunday was a three-wheeled gas vehicle with an open cargo area on the back. By flipping down a small gate at the back, a farmer confined to a wheelchair can wheel himself onto the vehicle, grab the handle bars of the vehicle and take off through a field, West Virginia AgrAbility representative Inetta Fluharty said.

The three-wheeled vehicle made by Ventrac costs $5,000, but Fluharty's organization looks for ways to get discounts and grants to offset the costs.

Fluharty's group also loans equipment for 30 days so consumers may test it.

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