Troy Boomsma says if someone told him that he would lose a son in a tractor rollover, he would say that could never happen.
But it did.
And when the Boomsma family lost 7-year-old Jaxon to a farm accident on his grandparents’ farm Easter Weekend 2017, Troy Boomsma made it his mission to promote farm safety. His hope is, other families will not experience the same tragedy.
“When you go through a tragic accident like this, it changes your family. It changes who you are,” Troy explained.
Troy and his wife, both grew up on farms. And like so many farmkids, they valued their childhood experiences and made an effort to ensure their children were able to spend as much time as possible on their grandparents’ farms.
“Growing up on a farm, you learn a work ethic, accountability and character – it all helped us become who we are,” Troy said. “The challenge I see, is while the farm is a great place to raise a family, it is also a dangerous place. All I ask when I meet with farmers, is just pause for a moment and consider safety before you proceed.”
To encourage farm families to consider safety, Troy, his sister, Mary Boomsma and Jaxon’s siblings: Jaiden, Callie 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 the Green tractors, but remember, tractors are really big and sometimes the farmer can’t see what is around him. It is very important that we stay away from tractors and know where they are at all times!”
“We realized a lot of farm families are so used to working on the farm, they don’t think about how hazardous it can be,” explained Jaxon’s oldest sister, Jaiden.
When Jaiden learned about the children’s book her father and aunt were working on, she suggested the illustrations be based on actual photos from the family farm. “Jaxon loved the farm. For a school project he wrote, “when I am 60, I want to be a farmer,” she said.
Jaiden is studying business and marketing at South Dakota State University. “The book is aimed at younger children, but as adults read it to them, they get to see the safety aspects as well.”
Jaiden has joined her dad in advocating for farm safety. In addition to the Facebook page her mom and the JLB Committee manage, she expanded the farm safety social media messaging to Instagram and TikTok. JLB is short for Jaxon’s full name: Jaxon Liam Boomsma.
“I thought I could be a spokesperson for people my age,” explained Jaiden, who recently began giving farm safety presentations to school-age children. “It is emotional, and it will always be, but seeing how many people take in the farm facts and apply them to real life helps me realize we are helping.”
“Hopefully by sharing our story, we can help someone.” Troy Boomsma
After losing Jaxon, Troy began researching farm accidents. “What hit me, is a child dies in an accident every three days. The leading causes are side-by-sides and tractors. Twenty-five percent of those are tractor rollovers.”
Through his work as a territory manager for Pioneer Seed, Troy meets with farmers daily and immediately became aware of the fact that many other farm families were impacted by similar tragedies. “It is amazing the amount of people I have talked to who have lost children to farm accidents. It helps to learn how they got through it.”
For Troy, sharing his family’s story and promoting farm safety is healing. “I get it, 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 the Boomsma farm safety advocacy work or to order a copy of Staying safe on the Farm with Jaxon, visit Jaxon’s memorial Facebook page: Jaxon L. Boomsma Keep his Smile Alive.
Throughout the year 2022, South Dakota Farmers Union will distribute copies of Staying Safe on the Farm with Jaxon, to youth and families as part of their effort to provide farm safety education.
“We are grateful to the Boomsma family for having the courage to share their story to help keep other families safe,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of the South Dakota Farmers Union.
Farm safety is a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union educational programming. In 2018 the state’s largest agriculture organization designed a Farm Safety Trailer to provide youth with an interactive and fun way to learn about farm safety.
Farmers Union puts thousands of miles on the trailer, taking it to schools, fairs, community, 4-H and FFA events across the state explained Rocky Forman, Membership Coordinator.
“Kids learn best by doing,” Forman says. “So, we made sure each safety lesson exhibited in this trailer engages youth in a hands-on activity.”
For example, youth can try on a safety harness while learning about grain bin safety; drive an ATV simulator to learn how to safely drive an ATV and through the 3-D model farm, they can learn about high-risk areas of the farm and how to be safe.
To learn more about the work of the South Dakota Farmers Union to support farm and ranch families and their rural communities, visit www.sdfu.org.