Troy Boomsma says that if someone told him he was going to lose a son in a tractor coup, he would say it would never happen.
But she did.
And when Boomsma’s family lost 7-year-old Jackson in a ranch accident at his grandparents’ farm Easter Weekend 2017, Troy Boomsma made it his mission to promote the safety of the farm. He hopes that other families will not face the same tragedy.
“When you have a tragic accident like this, it changes your family. It changes your identity,” Troy explained.
Troy and his wife grew up on farms. Like many farm children, they valued their childhood experiences and made an effort to ensure that their children could spend as much time as possible on their grandparents’ farms.
Growing up on a farm, you learn work ethic, accountability, and character — all of which helped us become who we are,” Troy said. “The challenge I see is that while a farm is a great place to raise a family, it is also a dangerous place. All I ask when I meet farmers, is just to stop for a moment and think about safety before continuing.”
To encourage farm families to think about safety, Troy, his sister Mary Boomsma, and the Jackson brothers: Jayden, Kali, and Carter created a children’s book for families to read together.
The book follows Jaxon as he explores his grandfather’s farm. Each page highlights aspects of the farm Jaxon loved, and shares safety tips: “I love green tractors, but remember that tractors are very big and sometimes the farmer can’t see around. It is very important that we stay away from the tractors and know where they are at all times!”
“We’ve come to realize that a lot of farm families are so used to working on the farm, they don’t think about how dangerous it is,” explained Jackson’s older sister, Jayden.
When Jayden learned of the children’s book her father and aunt were working on, she suggested that the illustrations be based on actual photos from the family’s farm. “Love Jaxon Farm. For a school project he wrote, “When I’m sixty, I want to be a farmer.”
Jayden studies Business Administration and Marketing at South Dakota State University. “The book is intended for younger children, but when adults read it to them, they can also see the safety aspects.”
Jayden joins her father in defending the farm’s integrity. In addition to the Facebook page run by her mother and the JLB committee, she has expanded her farm safety social media messaging to Instagram and TikTok. JLB is an abbreviation of Jaxon’s full name: Jaxon Liam Boomsma.
“I thought I could be a spokesperson for people my age,” explained Jayden, who recently started giving presentations on farm safety to school-age children. “It’s emotional, and it always will be, but seeing how many people are taking farm facts and applying them in real life helps me realize we’re helping.”
“Hopefully by sharing our story, we can help someone.” Troy Boomsma
After Jackson’s loss, Troy began researching farm accidents. “What has hit me is a child dies in an accident every three days. The main causes are side-by-side tractors. Twenty-five percent of those are tractor overturns.”
Serving as regional manager for Pioneer Seed, Troy meets farmers daily and immediately becomes aware of the fact that many farm families have been affected by similar tragedies. “It’s amazing how many people I’ve talked to have lost their children in farm accidents. It’s helpful to know how they got through it.”
For Troy, sharing his family’s story and promoting the safety of the farm is healing. “I get that, for some, talking about it is really hard. For me, it helps. Hopefully by sharing our story, we can help someone.”
To learn more about Boomsma’s farm safety advocacy work or to request a copy of Stay Safe on the Farm with Jaxon, visit Jaxon’s memorial Facebook page: Jaxon L. Boomsma Keep his Smile Alive.
Throughout 2022, the South Dakota Farmers Association will distribute copies of Stay Safe on the Farm with Jaxon to young people and families as part of their efforts to provide farm safety education.
“We are grateful to the Boomsma family for having had the courage to share their story to help keep other families safe,” said Carla Hovhenke, Executive Director of the South Dakota Farmers Federation.
Farm safety is the focus of South Dakota Farmers Federation educational programs. In 2018, the state’s largest agricultural organization designed a farm safety trailer to provide young people with an interactive and fun way to learn about farm safety.
The Farmers’ Federation puts thousands of miles on the trailer, and takes it to schools, fairs, the community, 4-H and FFA events across the state, explained Rocky Foreman, membership coordinator.
“Kids learn best by doing,” Forman says. “Therefore, we have made sure that every safety lesson featured in this trailer engages young people in a hands-on activity.”
For example, young people can try seat belts while learning about the safety of grain baskets; Drive the ATV simulator to learn how to drive an ATV safely and through the 3D model farm they can learn about the high risk areas of the farm and how to keep them safe.
To learn more about the South Dakota Farmers Federation’s work to support farm and livestock families and their rural communities, visit www.sdfu.org.