Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The Country is a Horrible Place

"Tommy Osier, 18, a popular but indifferent student, was still a year from graduating from high school, and that was no sure thing. Farm work paid him $7.40 an hour, taught him discipline and gave him new skills. He had begun talking about making a life in farming."

—If you're already forming a reasonable emotional attachment to Tommy or any other person whose age is listed next to their name in this disturbing snuff piece, stop reading now and never go near a farm again as long as you live, and support legislation aimed at protecting the children/youth who work on them.

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I have a really weird fascination with fatal circumstances caused by non-obvious physics related phenomena. Like this, and the fact that if there is a fire in a tunnel on a slope you should go down through the fire and not up away from it, and gas explosions, and the way opening the freight doors during the Iroquois Theater fire created a giant incinerating fireball, etc. etc.


@Ellie wait why with the fire in the tunnel? Could be important.


@lindsey@twitter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaprun_disaster Heat and fire rise so the tunnel is like a chimney and the fire will move up through the tunnel. If you can get past it to the bottom of the tunnel you will be out of it.


@Ellie Yes, that sort of thing is really interesting. I watched a programme about the Kaprun disaster, and it's shocking how many people died just by going the wrong way in the tunnel. And, if you think about it, going down makes much more sense - but in an emergency situation you just don't think. Scary.


Hell Yeah!!! @k

evil melis

"Children working for their parents or close relatives are exempt from all labor regulations, a feature of federal law since 1938 that is based on the theory that parents will take extra care of their own children." ohhh my God


@evil melis - I just cannot understand those kinds of regulations that exempt your own kids. If you *would* take better care of your own kids, then you wouldn't put them in these situations in the first place, so it would be irrelevant whether the regulation specified them or not.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@evil melis Montana just celebrated our U.S. senators' efforts to exempt small farms from child labor laws.


A lot of these accidents wouldn't happen if we didn't buy so much dang high fructose corn syrup, meat and ethanol made from stupid corn instead of hemp or switchgrass.

Sea Ermine

@laurel Wouldn't that just lead to a big demand for hemp or switchgrass and subsequently, hemp and switchgrass farming related accidents?

ETA I don't know how hemp or switchgrass is farmed but I'm just guessing that any type of farming on such a large scale to fill such a high demand might lead to safety issues.


@Sea Ermine: Yeah, maybe. But we could do without a lot of the HFCS and meat we consume.

Sea Ermine

@laurel Oh I get it from a health standpoint I just think from a farm safety standpoint it doesn't matter what we're farming as long as it's improperly regulated and people don't have access to the equipment or knowledge needed to make things safer for workers.


Jesus, Hairpin. You tell me not to read it. YOU TOLD ME. I can't blame you. It's not your FAULT I ignored your warnings.

All the good feelingsa bout humanity I was having from pages and pages of facebook posts of friends inviting friends to use their hot showers and electrical sockets and drink their wine and watch their movies are gone.

I should really take your "don't read this shit" warnings more seriously.


So wait - factory farms are evil AND family farms are bad too? Fuck. What are we supposed to eat now?


@leon s


@Inkling According to everything I've learned in my food policy class this semester, tears is in fact the correct answer.


@leon s
our feelings

jane lane

@leon s time to learn to scavenge. Nuts and berries forever!


@leon s It seemed to me that this article was about large, industrial farms that were also owned by families? so maybe the smaller farms are OK. The nature of the accidents seemed such that they wouldn't have happened on a smaller scale—no giant silo full of grain to drown in, just a group of modestly-sized barrels of grain?


@planforamiracle these accidents can easily happen on small family farms. Even the smallest farm that grows grain of any kind will have a granary big enough to get trapped in it.

It's just that they're statistically more likely to happen on a farm where more people are working.

Source: I grew up on a small family farm and wasn't allowed to go inside the granary.


@rudedog@twitter thanks for correcting. I assumed (wrongly) that the scale of the farm/equipment was a cause of the accident.

up cubed

@planforamiracle I grew up in a small ranching/farming town and it was pretty common for people to lose parts of their fingers :(


My great aunt used to warn children away from nosepicking by pointing to her husband's three-fingered hand. "Your finger will get stuck up there!" she would tell us.

baked bean

@rudedog@twitter Yeah I've heard of kids dying because they were "swimming" in the (small) grain bin.

What needs to happen instead of regulation I think is just some kind of education/way to get corn unstuck from the sides of the bin.

I can't believe the manager didn't realize sending the kid in there. All I did was grow up in a rural area (my family does not farm) but knew that people drown in those things.


Is there a more American name than Wyatt Whitebread?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Cavendish I've always thought Colt McCoy was the perfect encapsulation of 'Murca names; Texas star quarterback Colt McCoy.

polka dots vs stripes

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I always like JD and Joe McCoy in FNL.

Miss Maszkerádi

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I remember driving through a large portion of the Midwest with my parents when I was about 10, and all the road signs with town names started looking like people's names when they listed two or three upcoming towns. We were so bored on this trip that we started inventing characters for each one we passed - I still remember clearly blonde-pigtailed Madison Coleman the teacher's pet who played the piano, or the dim-witted linebacker Spink Akron with his buzz cut.

polka dots vs stripes

Experts say the continuing rate of silo deaths is due in part to the huge amount of corn being produced and stored in the United States to meet the global demand for food, feed and, increasingly, ethanol-based fuel.

We have so many messed up farm subsidies that encourage huge overproduction of corn and other crops, accidents like this make me so sad because our priorities are all over the (wrong) place. We need farms and there will always be risk when working on them, but we don't need them at the scale they're currently at.

(Disclaimer: I do not/have not lived or worked on a farm, I just read stuff about farm policy because, domestic issues! important)


@polka dots vs stripes Seriously, and that's not even getting into how badly our subsidized overproduction affects farmers around the world re: inability to compete, inability to afford our crops, etc., etc., fucking etc., and how badly we're handling said surplus,vis-à-vis selling it overseas and reserving none for famine.


@sandwiches I, uh, am just learning about this kind of stuff, so I have a lot of feelings about it. Clearly.


Yrrrrrgh... ok. So here's my thing. I grew up in a farming community and I am all for Protecting Children. Yes. But small family farmers literally cannot afford to hire adult workers for big jobs like planting and harvest. There's no reason a teenager shouldn't be allowed to do basic jobs around the farm, and while I think it's cray to allow kids to do genuinely dangerous jobs, indiscriminate regulation doesn't help, IMO. A lot of folks in my hometown are terrified about legislation like this passing because it's not very clear what's allowed -- driving a pickup? What about a combine? (FWIW, I drove a combine when I was ten and I'm not even a farm kid. It's easy.) What about throwing hay bales off a flatbed? Or riding out to check fences? Or standing on the gate to scooch cattle down the chute for their vaccinations? Or...? People are worried for their way of life and their livelihoods.

My two cents... :)


@par_parenthese You put this so well!

This article isolated one danger in a long string of farm activities. Working on a farm will always have some dangers. It doesn't matter if corn or meat consumption goes down as those commodities will be replaced by another product and another set of concerns about harvesting said product.

The stories are all certainly tragedies, but that doesn't mean that the bill should definitely be passed. The reason it didn't is because the terms were too loosely defined, too difficult to enforce, and threatened the livelihoods of small farms (businesses). It wasn't because our politicians didn't care about children. It was because the bill was flawed. Any bill that enforces regulation should be reviewed with extreme care.

And in its defense the country and the farm is not a horrible place to be. I grew up on one, as did many people I know, and the general consensus is that we had great childhoods that we wouldn't exchange if given the chance.

Faintly Macabre

@par_parenthese As someone who didn't know much about farm safety before reading the article (okay, still don't), I thought the article was pretty balanced about it--my takeaway was that better safety regulations are necessary, but the bill was far too broad, but at least some parts of it really need to become law. What I thought was interesting was how cheap a lot of the better safety equipment and policies would be to implement. I know small farmers are on extremely tight budgets nowadays, but a one-time expense of a few thousand dollars to fix a life-threatening situation seems relatively low. I don't think they talked much about if they haven't been implemented more because of apathy or cost.

(Also, there's a scary movement among some politicians now to paint any life- or health-preserving regulation as cumbersome, no matter how cheap or easy it is. But I don't hold small farmers responsible for that.)


@Faintly Macabre I totally agree with your last paragraph. I swear, the term cost-benefit analysis means nothing to some people.

In my experience, stuff doesn't get implemented in the vast majority of cases because of cost, not apathy. These are people's kids, after all. A few thousand dollars to a person who's been driving the same pickup for thirty years isn't nothing.

I feel like some regulation could be a wise move, on the theory that one of the purposes of the law is to protect kids from idiots, but I think it's really better handled at the most local level possible -- as in, each municipality makes and enforces the regulations -- because they know the ins and outs of the agriculture in their own area. What's important and necessary on a wheat farm might be redundant or burdensome on a dairy farm. KWIM?


Right on, par_parentese. I grew up in a farming community as well, and all of my friends who lived on farms were expected to help out. When I spent the day with them, I would usually help out with chores as well. Most jobs kids do on the farm are relatively safe, but farming at any scale is dangerous work and most people who grew up in an urban or suburban environment aren't aware of the realities of working with large animals, machinery, and heavy equipment. Most of the farmers I knew growing up were very careful about following safe farming practices, and were very protective of their kids. However you can get folks who are cavalier about safety and cut corners when working. Also, a lot of kids want to continue farming as adults and genuinely enjoy the work.

Valley Girl

Holy Jesus I was braced for horrors but I didn't actually expect to see Tommy's dead body getting pulled from the silo! That kind of thing should be behind a graphic content warning, Miss Grey Lady :(

This was a terribly depressing read for so many reasons.


I am a farmer. I wish people would consider the secondary costs of cheap food. That's what this is. When profit is the primary concern, all things, human life, health, safety, animal welfare, environmental protection, sustainability must become secondary.


On the subject of farm-related deaths, there's also this. (Warning: horrifying, like many Public Information films.)


Oh no! I have been terrified of farm accidents since I was a kid because of the state fair. I grew up in a big city in a state full of farms, so the state fair was my chance to see how the rural residents lived. There's this big display every year about how you can get killed in a grain silo. It is terrifying.

And my college boyfriend grew up on a farm and enjoyed working on it, but I was always warning him to be careful about "farming accidents." He was a little bemused about it but also understood that shit was serious. He knew many unpleasant stories.

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