Children growing up on and near farms are always curious about the big heavy equipment that moves earth, the animals that graze the pasture land, and chemicals and fertilizers that can be worked into the soil to produce healthy plants. These three areas can also be potential sources of danger, which is why Simplot launched the Safety Days program. This extraordinary initiative was recognized recently by McDonald’s Corporation as demonstrating best practices in the “Community Impact” section of the company’s Sustainable Supply awards.
Simplot AgriBusiness Group public affairs manager Rick Philips speaks to a group of youngsters in Parma, Idaho, as part of Simplot Safety Days, which has been honored by McDonald’s as one of the most positive community programs among its suppliers.
“One of McDonald’s core values is to be involved in and have a positive impact on communities, and that’s an expectation they have for their key suppliers as well,” said Simplot’s Karin Hart, vice president of McDonald’s Global Business. Hart noted that the Farm Safety program is one of many Simplot initiatives that align well with McDonald’s vision of “improving ethical, environmental and economic impacts of doing business.”
As with most childhood risks, education is the key to helping kids avoid hidden dangers while also encouraging their curiosity around the fascinating world of agriculture. While only 2 percent of children are currently raised on farms, far more kids grow up within rural communities that may offer exposure to industrial equipment, irrigation canals and ditches, animals, and chemicals.
“Many kids may not live on a farm, but they might have a grandpa or a relative or a friend who does,” said Rick Phillips, Simplot manager of public affairs in Pocatello. Phillips has been involved in the safety program from the beginning.
“The Progressive Agriculture Foundation (a nonprofit in Alabama) wanted to bring their Safety Days program out west,” he added. “Simplot recognized the benefits of the program and agree. We jumped through hoops to complete training and then collaborated with school districts, Future Farmers of America and other local organizations and groups to make it happen.”
Since 2008, Simplot has sponsored four Progressive Agriculture Safety Days each year across southern Idaho with between 90 and 200 children at each event who participate in lessons and activities that will help them stay safe as they grow up around a rural, agricultural economy. Fourth graders in Parma spent a day at the University of Idaho Parma Research and Extension Center, a cooperative effort between Simplot and the university to promote and ensure continued agricultural research in Idaho.
“The Farm Safety events have become a part of the schools’ curriculum,” Phillips said. “The kids and teachers love it. The program has a great collaborative spirit.”
In addition to the programs in Idaho, Simplot also sponsors an expansive Safety Days program each year at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, Calif., home of World Ag Expo. “We bus 300 to 400 kids in from neighboring communities to participate in the safety program,” said Phillips.
Simplot helped design programs that were uniquely targeted and slightly different for each community. Going forward, the Company can study the impact these programs are having on the groups of children who participated.
The program is a clear example of Simplot’s commitment to long-term sustainability and the three pillars that guide that effort: respect for resources, innovation, and passion for people, according to Hart.
“The company is dedicated to investing in the health and vibrancy of rural communities with programs such as Safety Days,” she said. “That McDonald’s chose to recognize this work with a Best of Sustainable Supply award is just one more indication of the program’s value.”