On a day like any other, Zane Volkmann was working his summer job at Callaway Livestock Center. As usual, Volkmann rode through the barn, intending to grab a pipe overhead to swing off of his horse. In an instant, his life changed. Volkmann was vaulted over the pipe and plummeted 9 feet to the ground, where he landed on his head. Thankfully, an off-duty firefighter took charge by holding his body still to prevent any further damage.
Volkmann suffered three brain bleeds and a broken back. He doesn’t remember the accident itself, but can tell you the exact day that his life changed: Aug. 13, 2012. It’s easy for farmers, ranchers and farm employees to fall into their daily routine without stopping to first take safety precautions.
“It’s normal to not wear a helmet when riding,” Volkmann says. “Sometimes they’re more common when breaking horses, but the norm is not to wear one.”
This mentality contributes to agriculture’s ranking as one of the most hazardous occupations across the globe. Each year, millions of people are injured on the farm.
With the safety gear on the market today, no one should have to go through an experience like Volkmann’s. Since the incident, he has become a strong advocate for the state’s Show-Me Farm Safety program, aimed at reducing farm injuries and fatalities.
Common-sense safety measures are important when dealing with tractors, grain bins, livestock and even ATV’s. Proper safety measures, including taking the time to slow down on day-to-day chores and using appropriate safety gear, help avoid experiences like Volkmann’s. Through his traumatic event, Volkmann is able to help others decrease the likelihood of a life-changing disability or chronic health condition from occurring.
Today, Volkmann is finishing up his associate degree in agriculture at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M University, while riding, training and shoeing horses to make his way through college.
Getting to this point was no cakewalk. He suffered memory loss during the beginning of his recovery and spent weeks avoiding light and noise, and trying to gain back his balance. His success is due in part to support from his parents and the Agrability program at the University of Missouri.
“My parents pushed me not to give up,” Volkmann says. “They wouldn’t let me quit.”