ONTARIO — In 2021, nine Ontarians came to the end of their lives in accidents on the farm — the reputed most dangerous workplace in the country. That’s up three from six on-farm fatalities recorded by Farmers Forum in 2020. Farmers Forum records do not include farm-related deaths on public roadways.
The number of Ontario farm deaths last year is up slightly from the seven-year average of 8.3 fatalities annually. And it’s down dramatically from an average of 29 farm deaths occurring each year between 1990 and 2008. Nationwide, an average of 117 people died annually in Canadian farm accidents from 1990 to 2000, according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting.
That average dropped to 85 by 2012, a year when a then-low 60 people died on Canadian farms. 2021’s terrible toll includes two children, four men in their 70s, a foreign worker and a young dairyman who lost his life on an ATV. Two of the fatalities occurred in Eastern Ontario. The ongoing pandemic injected another tragic aspect into farming last year as four temporary foreign agricultural workers died from COVID-19 between March and May, while still in quarantine prior to starting their seasonal work here.
The fatality list was compiled from news and police reports, Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) and Wisconsinbased AgInjuryNews.com.
- A one-and-a-half-year-old Guelph-area boy died after falling into a barn manure system. His body was tragically found about 45 minutes after he went missing on March 28.
- James Scissons, 22, died April 16 in an ATV accident after going out to search for a calf on his family’s Kinburn dairy farm, west of Ottawa.
- Eight-year-old Caleb Varcoe died April 27 after falling into a farm wagon carrying wheat in Armstrong Township, north of New Liskeard.
- Bryan Morton, 72, of Ethel in Western Ontario lost his life after being run over April 29. His daughter — New York Times best-selling author Ann Voskamp — said in an Instagram post that her father died in the same way as her sister — “both killed under a farm tire in the same farmyard.”
An 84-year-old tractor driver was struck by a falling tree and fatally injured April 30. Peterborough County OPP and emergency crews responded to the accident on Asphodel 7th Line around 4 p.m. According to police, the tractor remained in motion after the tree fell on the driver, entering a ditch. The victim was transported to a local hospital and succumbed to life-threatening injuries. A neighbour told Farmers Forum he was an “old farmer” on his way to feed the cows during a windstorm. “Someone just driving up to visit him saw it all happen.”
- Retired dairy farmer and antique tractor enthusiast Glen Armstrong, 70, died May 16 while digging an elaborate pond at the family farm on Dunning Road, east of urban Ottawa. When the tractor Armstrong was operating fell into the hole, he was thrown from the machine, fatally hitting his head on a rock.
- 77-year-old beef farmer Gordon Thring died June 20 in a tractor rollover as he mowed a steep ditch on his Mapleton farm in Western Ontario.
- Foreign farm worker Van Ngoc Le lost his life Sept. 23 while working in a field on Lan Anh Ginseng Farm “when a piece of equipment from a trailer struck him, causing serious life-threatening injuries,” said the Norfolk OPP news release. He was pronounced dead at the scene south of Waterford, in Western Ontario.
- Bob Giffen, 77, a senior family member behind Giffen’s Country Market and orchard in Simcoe County, died Oct. 13 in a combine accident at the family farm.