As Father Knute Jacobson of Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia prays, farmers and their families bow their heads and press their hands to a big, green, John Deere combine.
The combine blessing was just one of the events at the Boone County Farm Bureau’s Safety Expo held in Columbia Saturday, August 2. It was the first time attendees had been invited to pray for the collective safety of farmers this upcoming harvest season.
Farm Bureau Intern Emily Steelman helped coordinate the free community event. She said safety is often forgotten during everyday activities on the farm.
“It’s not that we don’t necessarily know, it’s that we become lax in it,” Steelman said. “We like to do things the easy way and that’s not always the safest way. So it’s really important that we create a safety culture.”
Sure, we think of farm work as being difficult and labor intensive. But dangerous?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agriculture industry was ranked 3rd in fatal injuries in 2012, right behind construction and transportation. Half of these deaths occurred as a result of injury during crop production, which accounts for almost 5 percent of all fatal occupational injuries in the US.
Farm Bureau member and life-long farmer Brian Schnarre says safety is even more important for younger farmers who, like most 20-somethings, tend to be more reckless than their older counterparts.
“The older I am, the slower I move and probably get a little safer that way,” Schnarre said. “When we’re younger, it’s kind of grab-it-and-go and don’t worry about [safety].”
Farmers and farm workers aren’t the only ones at risk on the farm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 113 youth die annually from farm-related injuries. Most of these injuries involve machinery or motor vehicles.
17-year-old Hunter Dougan works on his parents farm near Ashland. He agreed he doesn’t always think about the safety of certain activities, but he said some safety precautions come more naturally than others.
“Depending on the task, it’s already ingrained in the head over and over again," said Dougan. “Like when you’re mowing the lawn, you put in the ear protection and the eye protection. But sometimes, you actually have to think about it.”
While many of the event’s presentations were focused on a life in agriculture, Farmer John Lorentzen pointed out that safety isn’t just for those who live on a farm.
“We need to get town people more aware that large [farming] equipment does not go as fast as the cars,” Lorentzen said. “When we are out on the road, we are going as fast as we can go but they can slow down to us.”
No matter what, accidents will happen on the road or in the field, which is just another reason to say a little prayer.