MALTA – Almost 100 area schoolchildren flocked to Jonamac Orchard on Wednesday for a summer day camp to learn all about farm safety and rural living from the DeKalb County Farm Bureau.
Held for the first time since 2018, the camp made a return to Jonamac Orchard, 19412 Shabbona Rd, in Malta after the COVID-19 pandemic put the event on hold in 2020.
The safety camp started in 1994 and has been held every other year since. The orchard has played hosted to the camp since 2000. Sponsored by the DeKalb County Farm Bureau with support from COUNTRY Financial and Conserv FS, the summer session also included a chance for campers between ages 8 and 12 to learn more about resources from area safety agencies.
Both Riley Frieders and Jaedyn Martz were two of the almost 100 kids who attended the daylong camp Wednesday.
When asked what her favorite station was, Frieders, 7, of Sandwich replied “the PTO station,” which was later explained as farm machinery from both Frieders and Martz, who were in the same group together. The station run by Young Farmers, an area group that demonstrated how farm machinery works. All the children had the chance to look at the inside of the tractor, and got to learn how it operated.
Martz, 10, of Maple Park said her favorite activity Wednesday was a grain safety station.
“The whole purpose is to just educate the kids in a fun way,” said Anna Schelkopf, Farm Safety Camp event coordinator and assistant director of communication at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau.
The biannual activity is meant to education youth in DeKalb County’s more rural communities on how to put safety first, whether they’re living on a farm or not.
“Not all of them live on farms, but all of them have something relatable,” Schelkopf said. “Even if you don’t live on a farm, you are learning about fire safety, or managing an injury, or who to call for help, how to ride your bike safely.”
Among agencies who offered safety tips including deputies from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb and Malta fire departments, Northern Illinois University’s Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic and the DeKalb Lawn & Equipment/TORO company.
The campers were divided into groups and spent about 20 minutes at each stations learning about ATVs, farm animals, bike safety, chemicals, electricity, farm machinery, fire, first aid and rescue, grain bin and grain wagons, hearing, lawn mowers and garden tractors and semi-trailer truck safety.
A few of those safety procedures that were included in the sessions helped the children learn about how to respond to a farm accident, operating a lawn mower and farm machinery and avoiding hazards such as flowing grain and downed power lines. Other sessions provided interactive exercises, making safety topics fun to learn about.
A safety station hosted by Tom Newquist and Dave Kohlhagen helped the children learn how to operate lawn mowers safely.
Newquist, owner of the DeKalb Lawn and Equipment, 219 N. Seventh St. in DeKalb and Kohlhagen, a regional sales manager for The Toro Company – a Minnesota-based distributor of lawn and agriculture equipment – said they have been helping out with the camp for almost 20 years.
Wednesday’s turnout was among the largest the farm bureau has seen at the camp, which normally ranges from 60 to 100 children, Schelkopf said.
“These are some of our highest numbers,” she said. “Probably because we had that [pandemic] gap in there.”