Lessons for life:

Sister finds her farm safety voice as a student and athlete   

College is a life-changing experience fo`r many people, but Jaiden Boomsma’s life changed well before she arrived on the campus of South Dakota State University (SDSU).  

Jaiden’s little brother, Jaxon, died at age 7 in a tractor runover on their grandparents’ farm when she was 15. Soon after, the Boomsma family established a memorial to “Keep his Smile Alive” and try to prevent a similar tragedy from striking another family.

Seven years later, as Jaiden prepared to finish her collegiate track and field career and graduate with the SDSU class of 2024, she took stock of her journey.

She said telling Jaxon’s story can be both uplifting and heartbreaking, a duality she felt when applying lessons learned from a college class on “marketing for non-profits.”

“They said, ‘Market what your goal is,’ and my goal with the (Jaxon Liam Boomsma) Memorial is farm safety, so I made a TikTok video for National Farm Safety and Health Week,” Jaiden recalled. “I started the video with, ‘This week is Farm Safety Week; a very important week for my family because in April 2017, I lost my little brother in a tractor accident on the farm.’ And then I highlighted some of the stuff we do with the Memorial like the scholarships and events around Yankton, and basically showed how it all related to my family.”

The video also included the Boomsmas’ book, titled, “Staying safe on the farm with Jaxon,” which has become the calling card of the Memorial. Several years ago, Jaiden and her siblings, Callie and Carter, worked with their Aunt Mary Boomsma on the book, available through the Memorial’s Facebook page.

Going viral

Reaction to the video far exceeded expectations, and orders for the book flooded in.

“It ended up getting 233,000 views and over 31,000 likes,” Jaiden said. “There were so many comments from around the country about where can I find this book and where can I buy it, and I am like, oh my gosh, I did what I set out to do, I promoted the book and so many more people know about it now.”

As thrilled as Jaiden was to see the video go viral and hear others relate her story to their own, the video was emotionally difficult to make.

“It meant looking at all the old pictures of us, and I had to see those gravestone pictures, and so it does hurt. But what was really cool was that one of Jaxon’s little buddies saw it and made his own farm safety TikTok last year and that tugs at your heart strings, seeing someone that age make that video. And there are others who have honored Jaxon too, which is really cool.”

Jaiden also does occasional in-person presentations to school children around her hometown of Yankton, an activity that she looks forward to.

“Watching their faces light up when they understand a safety point helps me a lot, because you know you are getting through to them,” Jaiden said. “And it can be so much fun. When a little boy raises his hand and tells me a funny story about something he did with his grandparents, it triggers a good memory for me, and I get to remember all the goofy stories from when I was a kid on my grandparents’ farms.”

Jaiden’s father, Troy Boomsma, is a territory manager with Pioneer Seeds/Corteva AgriScience. Troy and Jaiden’s mother, Sarah, met while attending South Dakota State. Troy was the first in the family to take a public-facing role in farm safety advocacy, giving interviews and presentations, and speaking face-to-face with customers.

Now Jaiden has found her own voice as a promoter of farm safety.

“My dad cites a lot of facts and statistics, so I thought, why not gear my messaging more toward my generation? Young adults tend to be more reckless and tend not to pay as much attention to facts, so I thought, ‘Okay, I am going to make it more personal and have pictures and tell our story from our family’s perspective.’”

Navigating grief

A few years ago, Jaiden struggled with managing her grief.

“I was starting to become a person who I didn’t recognize,” she said. “I was losing the love for things and people who had been there for me, and was just a little lost.”

She spoke to her parents and started attending church again. As a member of the SDSU track and field team (sprints and long jump), she joined the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She also took on a larger role in telling Jaxon’s story.

“I told my dad I wanted to be more involved in the Memorial so that I could start helping other people as well,” Jaiden said. “He truly inspired me to start healing.”

Through it all, track has been a constant. A safe place. The training, the competition, teammates and coaches, have all provided Jaiden much-needed normalcy, especially during times when the grief swells up.

“Every time I win, I sit there and think, this is for you, Jaxon,” Jaiden said. “Track has allowed me to not only honor him, but it gives me days to not think about it, when I can just focus on my blocks, I can focus on the long jump. So it goes both ways. Track also reminds me how many people I have in my life. It’s been one of my biggest blessings.”

Looking ahead 

As Jaiden neared graduation with a bachelor’s degree in business economics, she looked forward to a career as a financial advisor and helping others with their life goals.

“With that, I also look forward to continuing my farm safety presentations at the local schools and being able to spread our story while promoting farm safety,” she said. “In the last seven years, I have become stronger in my faith, connected with people who went through similar experiences, learned how to grieve, became closer with family and friends and, most importantly, found my love for spreading our story to help others.

“And I am so blessed to say Jaxon has been my motivation to push through adversity with a smile. He is my motivation for all my accomplishments and growth, on and off the track.”

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