Posts Tagged ‘harvest’

A Harvest Prayer

Nine years ago I received one of those phone calls that no wife wants to hear:

“Hey, honey, I’m okay but I had a little accident at work today…”

While transferring grain, Big C was using an extension cord to power a small electric motor. There was a problem with the cord, and it began to shock him. The electricity caused his hand muscles to tighten around the cord, leaving him unable to let go. He fell down and that’s what alerted our neighbor, who was helping at the farm that day, to see what was going on. He quickly realized what was happening and unplugged the cord, preventing any further injury.

My heart’s pounding right now as I write this, remembering that conversation.

He ended up with deep burns on his hand, but no other serious injuries. He was very fortunate that day. It wouldn’t have taken much for me to have received a very different phone call.

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Farming is a dangerous business, consistently ranking in the top ten deadliest occupations in America, along with loggers, commercial fishermen, construction workers, and truck drivers. Farmers operate heavy machinery, work with animals, spend time outdoors in all types of weather conditions, climb tall structures and crawl into tight spaces, work long hours, and handle hazardous materials. And much of this work is done miles away from medical facilities, in places where cell phone service is sometimes spotty at best, adding precious seconds to response time in critical situations.

Not only do farmers have to be aware of their own activities, they also must watch out for people who don’t understand just how slowly large equipment moves down the road or how much time it takes to stop a loaded semi. Every year, I see people impatient to pass on narrow country roads, or crowding intersections where trucks need to make wide turns. According to the University of Illinois Extension, a car traveling at 55 mph when 400 feet behind a tractor traveling 15 mph only takes seven seconds to reach the tractor. Seven seconds. That’s not much time to avoid a collision.

Every year there are tragic stories of farm lives ended too soon, and even more near misses, whether realized at the time or not.

Technology has certainly made farming much safer today than it was a century ago. Our machinery is safer, with features like warning lights, system monitoring computers, and autosteer. Personal protective equipment like gloves, goggles, and respirators are used when handling fertilizer, herbicide, and manure. Remote cameras can be used to monitor grain bins and livestock barns. But farmers still incur a significant amount of risk every single day.

Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs, coined the slogan “Safety Third” on the show, after realizing that if safety was purely the top priority, very little work would actually get done. He writes: “Risk is everywhere. It can be understood and managed, but never eliminated. Risk is first. Getting the job done is second.”

And that puts safety a very near and very important, third.

 

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Every morning I pray for farmers, especially mine and especially during planting and harvest, to work hard and think clearly, to react appropriately and with safety (even third) in mind. I pray that others they interact with also show good judgement and respect in their actions, and that my evening prayer can be one of thanksgiving, for another day when everyone goes home in one piece to their families, even if that day really ends in the wee hours of the next one.

 

Farm Friday: Sharing Our Stories

We’re in the thick of harvest around here and that means Little C (my daughter) has been able to ride in the combine, tractor, and truck nearly every day for the past few weeks. It’s a good time for her to see her dad, grandpa, and uncle since they are working long days and don’t have as much down time in the evenings right now.

She and I were riding in the combine with my dad a week or so ago and he made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “Here she is, only 18 months old, and already knows more about combining corn than half of the population.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized he made an interesting point. Little C knows what combines and tractors are. She can tell me the difference between corn and beans. This is only her second harvest, although I did ride in the combine while I was pregnant with her so I suppose, technically, it’s her third 🙂

She's actually driving the tractor in the field. I thought it would be a few more years before I had to worry about her being behind the wheel!

She’s actually driving the tractor in the field. I thought it would be a few more years before I had to worry about her being behind the wheel!

On Monday we had the fun opportunity to show some little boys what we do on the farm. One of my friends has an almost two-year-old who loves trucks and tractors, and we worked it out for her to bring him and friend out to ride along. We had such a great time showing the boys the tractors and letting them ride through the field. One of them even fell asleep in the tractor! She told me they talked all the way home about being farmers someday.

She often asks me questions about agriculture and why we do some of the things we do on the farm, and I’m happy to answer the best I can. It’s important for us in ag to take advantage of these “teachable moments” to share our stories with people who don’t have a personal connection to the farm – which is a good percentage of the population. Most people have questions about their food and want answers – and they’ll take them from anywhere that seems credible. That’s why so many believe what people like Dr. Oz say without a second thought.

I saw this video today and it made me laugh, but also scared me just a little. Jimmy Kimmel asked random people on the street what they thought about GMOs. Their answers didn’t surprise me at all.

Jimmy Kimmel GMOs

We need to be proactive about sharing what we do and why we do it. People are looking for answers, and the majority will listen and try to understand, if we just become part of the conversation.