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Commentary: Northern Mo. family shares safety message following farm accident


Editor’s note: Author Lacey Miller and her family are Missouri Farm Bureau members. After losing her father, Ralph Griesbaum, in a rollover tractor accident on their Marion County farm, the family has become farm safety warriors, working to spare others a similar tragedy. 

National Farm Safety and Health Week concludes today. To learn more about farm safety, and find educational resources, visit NECASAG.org.

We never think it is going to happen to us. Those are just statistics. You only hear about it on the news. Real people don’t die in farm accidents, at least not real people we know. That is, until they do.

Father’s Day 2018 was the day that my family became a statistic. We are real people, and my dad really died from a tractor roll-over farm accident. He was 58, and my mom had just retired from school. He had a five-year plan. He had a 10-year plan. He was going to live forever; just ask him.

There are not enough letters in the English alphabet — or words in the modern language — for me to explain all of the ways this altered everything, but my life took a 180-degree flip when that tractor did the same. Everything changed in a split second, yet the farm had to go on. All the things that accompany normal loss come along with tragic loss. As a result, one of my passions has become advocacy. I don’t remember when I said it for the first time, but it’s become a repetitive chorus that I hope everyone hears: “If we can save one person because of this, it won’t have been in vain.”

From that one statement, I adopted a new paradigm: Advocate and educate farm safety. The Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS) memorial at Missouri Farm Bureau’s state fair building was born to share our message. The video that plays every August on repeat was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done publicly, but our story had to be told. It has to continue to raise awareness of farm safety.

Every day on the farm should be farm safety day, because you can never be too careful. As we conclude Farm Safety and Health Week, it's bittersweet for me. Every time I tell my dad’s story, someone in the crowd comes up to me and says, “It happened to me too.”

We have to tell our stories. We have to show the faces of the real people we know and say that this happened to me because it happened to someone I love. Our family hopes our story will make you stop and look for the dangers you may have become complacent to around the farm. Wear the seatbelt and take the extra moment to slow down, because nothing is worth your family becoming mine.