From the Field is an occasional column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.
It is one thing to be safety conscious for yourself, but when you take farm equipment on the highway, your safety zone extends to everyone else on the road. It’s hard enough to share the road when your equipment takes up more than a lane and trying not to hit mailboxes or run in the ditch. Today compared to maybe 20 years ago, or even 5 years; equipment is larger, automobile drivers are more hurried and distracted with cell phones or vehicle technology. So farmers have to look out for the safety of others, and even more so now, anticipate what drivers will do.
Farmers are farming more acreage, and in many cases the fields are not adjoining. Most farmers have increased their farmed acreage through the acquisition of rental land, and that means transporting more equipment on the roads and highways for longer distances. The equipment is larger as farmers seek to be more efficient using less labor and time. The larger equipment and more spread out farm fields have created more challenges for farmers with transportation. The other challenge is more population growth means more cars on the road.
This is why many county Farm Bureau Young Farmers committees have safety education as a project, not just for the general public; but for the farming community as well. Farmers need to take responsibility too when transporting equipment on the highway. Bedford Young Farmers have a public service announcement planned with law enforcement and local media about securing loads of commodities, especially since a load of round bales fell off a trailer into the highway in a busy section of the county.
Louisa Young Farmers recently conducted a display at their county fair with a tractor, large round baler, and a truck to demonstrate the line of sight from the tractor seat. The sight area was designated with a rope and the public could sit in the tractor seat and see that the truck following the baler was not visible. Another concern in Louisa are weight limits and widths on rural bridges that do not accommodate the larger modern day equipment. Shenandoah Young Farmers are planning at their county fair a safety display similar to one at the State Fair of Virginia last year. This display will have a combine on a simulated country road next to a car. The state fair display this year will have a combine with a wrecked car next to it.
I have seen some neat safety items in my travels over the years. One that I am seeing more and more on newer tractors is a rotating strobe light similar to what is on most VDOT tractors. But the best idea and most practical and least expensive was developed by Gray Coyner in Fauquier County. He welded small pieces of metal bar to the back of a SMV sign, and used this to shove into a round bale when carrying the bale on the back of the three point hitch of the tractor. I am sure there are other ideas out there, and please share with us.
The Young Farmers have been doing a really good job of connecting the farm –highway safety message with the public. If you are between the ages of 18 and 35 and have an interest in agriculture, even if you are not farming as your primary source of income; I encourage you to contact your county Farm Bureau office about becoming involved. The Young Farmers committees are always looking for new people and they have a good time with whatever they do.
Until next time,