Advancing Equity for Rural and Agricultural Youth

A red barn in a large. empty field full of short green and slightly orange grass. There are trees in the background with green, orange, yellow, and red leaves.

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Agriculture had the highest number of occupational fatalities across industries for youth aged 17 and younger from 2011-2020,1 with tractors and ATVs/UTVs being the leading source of deaths. As compared to urban youth, rural and agricultural youth experience greater disparities across fatal and non-fatal injuries. The population of youth who live on farms, visit and/or work on farms, and/or live in rural communities is highly diverse. The intersection of ethnic and linguistic diversity, along with financial, housing, and food insecurity, social isolation, and compromised access to health care and broadband internet compound these disparities.  

In this webinar, Marsha Salzwedel, Project Scientist at the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety (NCCRAHS) and the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC), talked about advancing equity using prevention strategies, and how to address the inherent challenges in working with rural and agricultural youth.  

Scott Heiberger, Communications Manager at the NCCRAHS, NFMC, and Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, discussed how to advocate for children on social media. He introduced the Media Guidelines and Tools of the Trade and share resources that have been translated to multiple languages and can be customized to include diverse skin tones, settings, and equipment. 

The webinar was moderated by Melissa Ploeckelman, outreach specialist for the NCCRAHS and NFMC, and an active member of the Children’s Safety Now Alliance (CSN-A).  

1 National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety (2022). 2022 Fact Sheet – Childhood Agricultural Injuries. Marshfield Clinic Health System, Marshfield WI. 


 Marsha A Salzwedel

Marsha Salzwedel, EdD is a Project Scientist at the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety (NCCRAHS) and the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC) in Marshfield, Wisconsin. She is the leader of the NCCRAHS Outreach Core, project manager for the agritourism safety project and the program manager for the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network. Marsha participates in the Grain Handling Safety Coalition and holds several other board and committee positions with other organizations. She earned her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Edgewood College in Madison. Marsha grew up on a farm and maintains her ties with that community through the farm that she and her family still own and operate. 

Scott Heiberger

Scott Heiberger, MS is communications manager at the National Farm Medicine Center and National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Wisconsin. He manages media relations, edits and writes media releases and other center outputs, and is managing editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Agromedicine. A former newspaper journalist, Scott is a member of the American Ag Editors Association and National Association of Farm Broadcasting. His media relations, journalism, and research experience enables him to translate research and promote resources to key audiences. He also is part of the outreach team for the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH). 


Melissa Ploeckelman

Melissa Ploeckelman, BS is the outreach specialist for the National Farm Medicine Center and the National Children’s Center for Rural Agriculture Health and Safety. Melissa is well-known to the Wisconsin agricultural community. She comes from the Colby School District, where she was the agriculture instructor, FFA advisor and Youth Apprenticeship coordinator for six years. Melissa grew up on the family’s dairy farm in Stetsonville, where she still helps out. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 2010 with a degree in agricultural education. While attending college she served as the 2006-2007 State FFA Parliamentarian, was named 2008 Marathon County Fairest of the Fairs, and selected the 2009 State Fairest of the Fairs.  She loves sharing the stories of agricultural safety and knowing that families are going home safe at the end of every day.  Melissa is an active member of the Children’s Safety Now Alliance. 

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