Teachable Moments

Troy Boomsma holds up a T-shirt that includes a design honoring his late son, Jaxon, who lost his life in a farm accident. 

TYNDALL — Troy Boomsma will never forget the moment when his young son, Jaxon, lost his life in a farm accident.

“April 14, 2017. It was Easter weekend,” Troy said, the date etched in his memory. “That one second changed our lives forever.”

Troy spoke during Monday’s farm safety camp in Tyndall. The event was organized by the Bon Homme High School FFA chapter Mark Misar and Bon Homme County Extension secretary Katie Hauck.

Troy shared the story of his 7-year-old son’s fatal accident, which happened while visiting the Boomsma family farm near Wessington.

“The more I tell the story, the more it hits home,” he told the Press & Dakotan. “You never stop grieving, but it’s best to move forward.”

Troy and Sarah Boomsma and their three other children — Jaiden, 17; Callie, 15; and Carter, 11 — have found their own way of moving forward.

The family has formed the Jaxon L. Boomsma Keep His Smile Alive Foundation. The non-profit organization has three goals: awarding an annual scholarship, promoting farm safety and contributing to community betterment.

As part of the farm safety outreach, Troy spoke Monday to about 80 campers at the Bon Homme County 4-H grounds.

“You should enjoy life on the farm, but be aware of the dangers all around you,” he said. “Tractors are the No. 1 cause of farm deaths, followed by ATVs (all-terrain vehicles).”

Boomsma got his message across in different ways. He showed stickers, a brochure and a coloring page. He held up a T-shirt with a tractor on the front and a special message on the back that the family dedicated to Jaxon — his initials JLB and angel’s wings.

Troy encouraged his audience to take home the safety message to their families.

Monday’s safety camp carried another connection for Troy — he works as a territory manager for Pioneer Seed, whose grant allowed participants to attend the camp for free. In addition Troy worked with the Pioneer Seed marketing team on the safety promotional materials.

Boomsma commended safety camp organizers Misar and Hauck for Bon Homme County and Katie Doty (4-H/youth development) for Yankton County. “We appreciate all the support we can get,” he said.

After his presentation, Boomsma admitted talking so openly about his lost son remains painful. He fought back tears while speaking with the Press & Dakotan.

“What has gotten us through all of this? For me, it’s been my faith in God and my belief that I’ll see Jaxon again someday,” he said. “We’ve also received a tremendous amount of support from people.”

The safety message needs to reach all ages, he said. “I hope the kids retain what they learned today, but we’re also trying to reach adults,” he said.

He especially worries about farmers who are faced with a very small window for planting because of prolonged wet conditions that started last fall.

“This year, you can especially see farmers feeling really pressured to race against time,” he said. “Weather dictates farming, and when you can plant, it’s time to go. But you also need to think twice before you try to plant or get the cattle fed.”

Turning to his own experience, Troy noted the tragic difference that one second can make in a number of lives.

“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” he said. “We don’t want any parents to go through what my family has gone through.”

SAFETY FIRST

The safety camp provided a number of hands-on — and some eye-opening — experiences.

Ken Carda and Bob Felber with Bon Homme-Yankton Electric showed a simulated live wire with a dummy as the model. They also showed a wiener and grapefruit that were literally fried on the inside when they came in contact with a live wire.

When coming in contact with an electric wire, the two men advised remaining in the farm equipment or jumping with both feet at the same time onto the ground, not stepping down with one foot on the machinery and one on the ground. The latter is a natural reaction but can prove fatal, they said.

At another station, Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) game warden Todd Crownover worked on gun safety with his 11-year-old son, Isaiah, and other campers. Todd used a set of five Mossberg guns without firing pins, purchased with funds from Pheasants Forever and the National Turkey Federation.

“We talked today about the handling of a gun, traveling with a gun in a vehicle and the fact that a child could find a gun in a house,” he said. “We also emphasize that you don’t point a gun at anyone.”

The use of the special guns allows instructors to take training to another level, Crownover said. “It creates a teachable moment,” he said.

MAKING AN IMPACT

Hauck said Monday’s event drew 81 campers, with 14 FFA and junior leaders assisting during the morning.

“The last camp we had was in 2015, and we had around 25 people,” she said. “We thought this safety camp would draw around 30, and we got way more than double that amount.”

Hauck credited the support not only from families but also from the entire county. The camp used a hands-on approach, which provided valuable learning opportunities, she said.

“We’re able to reach young kids before they get injured on the farm,” she added.

Misar saw the large camp turnout as an indication of the interest and value of the event. Topics included fire safety, gun safety, first aid safety, farm safety, grain safety, animal safety, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety and electrical safety.

“We had an interesting program with a lot of topics that piqued their interest, and the hands-on learning kept the kids focused,” he said.

Misar teaches the Bon Homme vocational agriculture and serves as FFA advisor. He thought the timing of Monday’s safety camp boosted its success. “If we did a safety camp every year, we thought it would burn out people,” he said.

Misar hopes the safety camp reaches both the young people and adults.

“A farm is a good place to raise a family,” he said. “I live on a farm, and I wouldn’t raise my kids anywhere else. But you also need to take caution and be safe.”

Monday’s safety camp was held in conjunction with the afternoon South Dakota Farmers Union camp. The joint effort pooled resources and sought to make both events accessible at one time.

Denise Mushitz of Geddes serves as the District I education director for nine counties. The afternoon camp touched on topics such as recycling, cooperatives and the importance of cooperation. She was happy to have the morning safety camp.

“The more kids we reach, it’s so important for improving the safety of young people,” she said.

Those themes resonated with Troy Boomsma, who said he wanted to impress that a farm remains a great place for raising a family.

“My wife and I grew up on a farm,” he said. “You learn a lot from living on a farm, things like a strong work ethic.”

Boomsma felt his late son’s presence at Monday’s event. He wanted people to know Jaxon as a fun-loving little boy whose life ended far too soon.

“Jaxon loved the farm, he loved the Black Hills and he was a jokester,” Troy said. “I think he would appreciate that this (camp) hit home with kids, and I think he would enjoy being out there himself with the other kids today.”

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