By JEFF BURBRINK
Extension Educator, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
GOSHEN — Last week I received an email that really disturbed me. Bill Field, Purdue’s Farm Safety Specialist, sent out a memo with a summary of farm fatalities for Indiana. Three nearby counties are in the top five on the list. Elkhart is number one, LaGrange is number two, and St. Joseph is fifth in fatalities over the past 36 years.
It saddens me. I have lost friends to farm accidents. I have seen the affect that accidents have on a family in the long run. I have lost an uncle to a farm accident and I know how our family was affected when Uncle Lynn died while disking a field.
I was one year old when that happened, and of course I do not recall the incident. Some people might doubt that losing an uncle 50 years ago would affect a family for such a long time, but it has a way of getting under the fabric of the family, and makes you think twice before you do something stupid. For me, the “King of Clumsy,” that is saying a lot.
I remember a few years ago calling Bill Field after Elkhart County lost a farmer in a particularly horrible way, and I asked him what I could do to help, what he had seen that would work. He told me, in a very clear, kind, understanding voice that farmers just do not come to safety meetings. You’re better off, he said, to incorporate safety into the other programs you do. “Sneak it in where you can,” he said.
The Amish and Mennonite farmers in the community are the one exception. They realize that disproportionately, about one in three farm accident deaths are from their community, and they have organized safety programs to learn how to avoid accidents, to teach their children safety, and to try to make safety more than an afterthought in our busy world.
Harvest time is a busy time, and busy times can be dangerous if short cuts are taken. For your family, for your friends, for all those you love, think twice about safety matters this fall. I am sure you do not want to be remembered as the person who died in a farm accident. You would rather be remembered as a person who made a good living supporting the family.