Spring is here! Spring is here!
That means so many things to farmers. Perennial crops are starting to grow again, ground is being tilled and planted, fences are being checked and repaired, and equipment is on the move. Around this time every year, most ag advocates post some kind of warning on their social media reminding people to watch out for slow moving farm equipment on the roads. We tell them to be patient, only pass when it’s safe to do so, and blatantly remind them that that’s someone’s mother/father/child driving that tractor. You being 10 minutes late isn’t worth someone’s life. And I fully support all of that, but I also think we as farmers need to take on some of the responsibility.
When I first started driving equipment down the road, my dad always told me to worry about me, not everyone else. I understand the sentiment, but I don’t always agree with it. I agree with the fact that I don’t have control over another’s vehicle or actions, but I must make sure I have full control over mine. I agree with the fact that I can’t stop them from making stupid, last-minute decisions, but I can try to anticipate their moves and react accordingly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be considerate of their plight.
The truth is, I’m the problem. I’m the one with the 16-foot header only going 14 mph down the highway. The good news is that most of the routes we use, we travel over and over again. So, when I’m heading the 10 miles across town to 150 acres of ground we rent, I know the exact path I’ll be taking. That means I know where all the tight spots are, the no passing zones, and the spots big enough for me to pull over for a few minutes and let the long line of cars behind me pass. Will it take me a few extra minutes to get there? Yes. But it will also make those people less desperate to get around me. It will stop them from taking stupid risks to pass me, and it will make them like me a little bit more. It’s not that I need everyone to like me, but we are a larger farm in this community and have to continue to live and do business here. What I don’t need is bad press.
In addition to that little courtesy, just because our equipment is bigger doesn’t mean we don’t have to obey the rules of the road, too. I always stay as close to the side as I can so others behind me can more easily see when they have the chance to pass. If I notice the car behind me trying to pass, I’ll even wave them around me if I have a better view than they do and can see that the coast is clear!
My biggest pet peeve when it comes to tractors on the road are farmers who move equipment without proper signage or lights. Guys, if it’s dark out and your tractor doesn’t have lights, DO NOT MOVE IT. If you have a distance to travel and you know your lights don’t work, FIX THEM. We say it all the time, so I’m going to say it like this: The people in those cars are someone’s mother/father/child, and they deserve to arrive at their destination safely as much as you do.
We are bigger than they are, which makes us the responsible ones. Not everyone grew up around large, slow-moving equipment. That makes it our job to help keep all of us safe. Happy springing, friends!
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.