Buchanan County Amish Farm Safety Day

Bruce Bearinger, CEED Buchanan County


In September 2005 the Buchanan County Youth Farm Safety Team, consisting of Buchanan County Extension and Buchanan County Health Center staff, met to discuss alternative farm safety programming.  One of the goals in extension is to reach underserved audiences.  The Amish population in Buchanan County presents a challenge as an underserved audience because of their unique culture and religious practices.  After reviewing alternatives the team decided to pursue youth farm safety educational programming with our Amish Population.


To address the challenge we developed a multiphase plan to be conducted over an eight month period.  Our plan consisted of the following activities:

      Team Education Kathy Post, Team Leader, found a three-day Indiana based Amish Farm Safety training program for educators.  Kathy attended this program.  Kathy then reported back to the group and trained all team members on the basics of the Amish culture and beliefs.  We found this to be a critical part of our program as it led us in the right direction from the beginning insuring that we followed acceptable practices from the onset of our program construction process.

      Amish Elder Contact One of the advantages we have with the Amish sect in Buchanan County is the school system.  All of the Amish rural schools are tied to one of three public school systems; Jesup, Wapsie Valley, and Oelwein.  This allowed us to make easy contact with the teachers within the Amish school system.  After introducing our ideas to the teachers we decided to start small in our first year.  We met with the elders and parents representing four of the ten Amish schools in the County.  These meetings generated trust and elder buy-in by putting the program content decisions in the hands of the Amish elders.

      Program Construction : The meetings with the Amish elders generated the following farm safety program educational stations: Water Safety, Pedestrian Highway Safety with Stranger Danger, Large Animal Safety, Grain Bin and Grain Wagon Safety, Sun Safety, Disability Awareness and Hand Tool Safety.  No tractors or vehicles were allowed. We also learned that it was important to the elders that we all dressed in pants and that all young ladies dress in a unrevealing fashion.

      Program Delivery :  We decided to hold the program at Rural School #4, the largest of the four schools.  This school had a large yard, was close to a major paved highway, and was easy to find.  Presenters were solicited and trained.  We decided to present our program to fourth through eight graders.  This decision was based on the fact that children less than fourth grade have poor English speaking skills and accident statistics from the area showed this group to be at the greatest risk.


The program served 46 Amish youth and utilized 22 adult and youth volunteers.  All committee members conducted verbal surveys of all involved.  The volunteers were all impressed with the Amish students.  They commented as to how attentive, polite, friendly and excited they were about the program.  The Amish Elders were very happy and want to continue and expand the program.  The Amish teachers want to continue the program and are excited about the idea of other Extension programming in the schools.  The youth FFA presenters from the Oelwein and Jesup FFA programs were impressed with the knowledge and learning abilities of the Amish children.  Our committee was very pleased with the outcomes of the program.  Our local extension staff believes that continued programs with youth will foster long term relationships with the Amish population that will lead to increased utilization of our programs and services as well as enrich both the Amish and non-Amish cultures.

September 2006

121a Risk Management Education, 156-Youth Education, 400 - Youth Development


Page last updated: September 13, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu