Marilyn Hershey
When it comes to farm safety, the entire farm team must have their eyes wide open.

Being raised on a dairy farm was one of the best parts of my childhood. My upbringing was etched so deeply that marrying a farmer was high on my priority list as I grew older.

After raising four children in this hardworking, sometimes chaotic atmosphere, I would say that farm life is a beautiful lifestyle with ample opportunity for skill building, life lessons, and tons of fun.

This lifestyle is also the platform for one of the most dangerous occupations. We are raising children around powerful equipment, large animals, and cleaning solutions for our milking equipment that need oversight. Some days, oversight is too shallow a word.

It is not just the kids that need oversight; we also need to keep an eye on ourselves and each other.

A friend of mine was reminded of this a few years ago when she and her husband went to the pasture to bring a fresh cow and its newborn calf into the barn. The cow took them as a threat, and my friend ended up with several injuries and a long recovery time. We are all fortunate that her husband was with her and able to get her out of danger.

It happened to me on a lesser scale when a cow came behind me in the freestall, lifted me off the ground, and pushed me into a stall. Thankfully, I had an opportunity to slip into the other stall and get away from the cow before it could lunge a second time.

Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime, and in any occupation. I am not a proponent of living in a fear-gripped life, but awareness of our surroundings is key in keeping people safe from harm.

As with every farm, we have had things happen that we were not expecting. Some of them have been little reminders to slow down, and some incidences have been big enough to visit the doctor and call the insurance company.

I guarantee that one of the first questions the insurance company will ask is, “Were they trained to handle this equipment?”

Training looks different for each farm, but the bottom line is we need to communicate and maybe cross the line of overcommunicating to get the point of safety across to our crews.

I am totally preaching to myself on this. It is quite easy to get caught up in the business of the day-to-day practices that keep our farms moving and not think about giving tips that we assume our employees or family members already know.

There are a lot of efforts by organizations with online information and farm safety training. I always find the information useful.

Years ago, I remember taking the kids to summer events that highlighted safety practices for farm children. Awareness is so important for them to understand how farms are run. If the only thing we gained is helping our children become aware of the equipment around them, we have gained a lot.

The truth is, the kids were not the only ones learning at the farm safety events. It was at a farm safety day that I was reminded of the many buckets and empty containers on a farm. Sometimes they are used for specific tasks, and sometimes they are just catching rainwater.

The containers that lay in the corner of the yard, up against a shed, go unnoticed to most eyes but are a hazard for young children. That session has always stuck with me.

Last month, I thought of the instructor’s words when I walked past a container that the month before had been an empty, dry dust catcher. After several inches of rain, the barely noticed container had turned into a hazard for young children.

The first time or two I walked past it, I noticed it, but I kept going. I had things to do and did not want to be slowed down.

This container kept coming into my mind. Instead of walking past it, the next time I tipped it over, dumped out the water, and stuck it in the garage so we did not run into the same problem next month.

I get it. We are busy. I am busy. It is not always easy to take time to slow down and be aware of what is around us, but it is important.

My mother had to go through this a few years ago when she was washing her car. Unknown to her, the garden hose was loosely wrapped around her foot, so loosely that she did not think twice about giving the hose a hard pull. Unfortunately, the hose took her leg for a ride and she ended up on the ground with a very painful pelvis break that took a long time to heal. It was a difficult summer for her.

I understand that some accidents are completely unavoidable, and I do not propose that if we just be aware, we will go through days without mishaps. Accidents will happen, and we cannot beat ourselves up when we have such days; however, awareness, communication, and eyes wide open will certainly make our lives safer for many years to come.

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.