Just this week I sat at my desk as my heart broke for the loss of a toddler who had fallen from the cab of a tractor driven by his dad.

These messages have been regular appearances on my e-mails this summer. I have a growing stack of them in front of me this morning as I lift up each family to God’s loving arms.

As farmers, we seem to accept loss. Crops don’t grow, livestock prices plummet, legs and arms are mangled in machinery, older farmers die in the field “doing what they loved.”

But a child. A soul you nourished and cherished and loved. Someone you would give your own life for without a second thought. The loss of a child is the loss of a future.

Each year over 100 farm children die due to farm exposure. Most are simply in the work environment, like this toddler.

The majority of the deaths involve tractors. Riding a tractor is so much fun to a child. Sometimes it seems a necessity because work has to get done and there is no one to take care of the kids. But in a heartbeat, fun turns deadly.

One life is lost and others are changed forever. Many families don’t survive the loss. The cost simply cannot be counted.

Do you really think this cannot happen to your family? Are you willing to take the risk? Yes, it is a long tradition — this riding on a tractor. I did it as a youngster and you probably did too, perched on the fender or on the draw bar.

But now we know better. We know what can happen and how often it happens. One child gone forever, every three days. It’s time to bury the tradition instead of the child.

Find other fun and rewards on the farm. Make a “horse” out of a square bale, put up two swings and together reach for the sky, or take a picnic to the cornfield and watch the sun go down. Just keep those little ones off the tractor.

For more information about “bury the tradition, not the child” go to the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network at http://www.childagsafety.org/ or the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety at  http://www3.marshfieldclinic.org/nccrahs/.  

Dr. Reed can be contacted at dbreed01@uky.edu.