Lee-Ann Thompson admits she often sounds like a “broken record” when it comes to her kids’ safety on their Manangatang farm, but it’s something she says she’s not willing to be complacent about.
“Yes we live here, but it is a workplace as well, so we want our kids to have that top of mind whenever they step out the front door of the house,” she said.
Ms Thompson grows wheat and barley with her husband Peter, who is the third generation to take on the responsibilities of the former sheep farm, and at the same time they are raising the farm’s fourth generation – Luke, 12, Elise, 10, and Daniel, 8.
She said ever since her kids could “sit up”, they have been out and about on the farm with their dad and sweeping up in the shearing shed.
But from a young age they have always been aware of their boundaries.
As soon as they were able to, the kids have ridden motorbikes on the farm, both to help out and recreationally, but we’ve got rules about traffic management, they’re only allowed to ride one way around the farm, so everyone knows which way everyone will be heading,” she said.
“They are also aware of tractor and traffic movements around the farm; they have been taught to always keep a look out and make eye contact with the operator.
“If they hear a tractor or machinery we have taught the kids to stand to the closest wall of the shed or a tree, and not to follow the tractor.”
She said the key to keeping her children – and everyone else – safe on the farm was communication.
“Peter and I will always make sure we communicate as to what tasks are being done on the farm that day and in what paddocks, so if the kids say they are going motorbike riding, I can tell them to not go to a certain paddock because they are working there,” she said.
“UHF radios and practiced hand signals are used routinely on our farm to be able to communicate effectively when background noise is an issue.”
Ms Thompson said while she knew of some farmers who didn’t even let their kids out on the farm, they had always had the mentality that their children needed to be out and about experiencing and learning.
“We’ve taken a measured approach, yes, we are helping them understand what the dangers possibly could be and how to mitigate some of those, but we want them to gain confidence in their abilities, while also understanding their limitations.”
She wants her children to understand and appreciate the industry and what their farm contributes to it.
“We want them to understand that food doesn’t come from a supermarket, how much the industry contributes to the economy, the trials and tribulations of farming, how to take care of your animals and your land, and that the money we earn from the farm is how we’re able to have other nice things in our lives,” she said.