Kristi Ruth, a Farm Safety Advocate’s Story

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

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February 18, 2007 is a day that Kristi Ruth will never forget. For Kristi, this beautiful winter morning at the family farm in Eastern Iowa started out like any typical Sunday, spending time with the family and taking part in a variety of barn chores. 15-year old Kristi was assisting her dad and two brothers drilling post holes to put in a head chute for the new heifers the family recently purchased at a sale. What happened next left Kristi with a life-altering injury and a haunting memory for her and her family.

After several attempts of unsuccessfully getting the auger to pierce through the frost covered ground that February morning, Kristi’s dad yelled, “that’s enough, we’re done!” and decided to move onto another project around the farm. Kristi’s brothers were not ready to give up without a fight and tried other tactics to get the digger to cooperate. All the while Kristi was understanding the danger of the situation after just receiving a gold medal with her farm safety speech through FFA a week prior. Kristi’s number one concern was her family’s safety and took extra precautions assuring nothing was dangling from her brother’s clothes that could get caught in the equipment, but as the digger began to shake even more and started hitting the side of the barn with each unsuccessful rotation of the auger, Kristi instinctively reached out to hold it with one hand on top and another on the bottom.

As the tractor was shutting off and the digger was winding down, Kristi’s brother helped to retract her hands. As she bent her wrist, the auger cupped her leather glove and at the exact moment the shear bolt on the PTO shaft came around. The PTO had grabbed her glove and sucked her in. Kristi’s arm was pulled in and around the PTO shaft clear up to her shoulder. Luckily, the machine was shutting down and her arm only wrapped 6 times stopping when her torso and chest slammed into the brace bar. With just one more rotation, Kristi would have been decapitated. Once Kristi’s arm was free, she was quickly life-flighted to Des Moines. There Kristi’s family heard the tragic news that her arm would likely need to be amputated; however, after making her way to the University of Iowa and undergoing countless procedures, her arm was saved and her long road to recovery began.

Kristi became a farm safety advocate prior to her personal experience after losing an uncle in a tractor rollover incident in 2005, a role she still holds today as a coordinator with the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program. “I would never wish what happened to me, upon anyone. Don’t risk your livelihood, your safety or that of someone else’s. I know how important calving season and the last few bushels of harvest are, but so is your life! The key is to have balance and not rush into things. Think through situations and about the outcomes for people around you as well as yourself!” ~Kristi Ruth

For more on Kristi’s story, check out this great video from Iowa State University

If you are interested in conducting a 2016 Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® for your school or community, applications are being accepted through July 15, 2015. To apply to host a Safety Day or for more information about the program, visit