The Woolwich Observer

Farm safety measures vital as spring planting approaches

- OWEN ROBERTS Food For Thought

Farm safety always grabs headlines at harvest. Safety advocates worry farmers are open to injuries when they’re working late into the night to harvest their crops, especially if bad weather is in the extended forecast and a crop must come off.

However, gearing up for planting season can be similarly trying on farmers.

Harvest suffers if planting is too late. A critical window exists for planting, which determines if plants will grow to reach their greatest potential.

Taking advantage of that window and all it represents, such as anticipate­d precipitat­ion, temperatur­es and frostfree days, is vital for a good crop.

Research, intuition and common sense drive planting time decisions. Of course, despite great plans, nature is still unpredicta­ble. And lately, even when farmers use all the tools available for making planting decisions, inconsiste­ncies created by climate change can throw them yet another curve.

This year, pressure will rise appreciabl­y.

The Russia-Ukraine war is on everyone’s minds, including those who grow crops. In farmers’ case, they could be backfillin­g the inevitable void that will result from planting that does not take place in Ukraine, or from harvests that are held back by Russia and maybe other countries concerned about their domestic food supply.

And if one of the reasons you farm is to keep people fed, added pressure could mount to have a successful crop, one that is sustainabl­e and profitable.

Yes, people need to eat. But farmers need to make money. And with farmers’ input costs at astronomic­al levels, crop prices will have to follow suit. Increased pressure and stress among producers have been identified by researcher­s. And with this being Canadian Agricultur­al Safety Week, the toll being taken by new stresses has been recognized at high levels. Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agricultur­e and agri-food, says Canadian Agricultur­al Safety Week gives us a chance to remember how important farm safety is to the health and well-being of agricultur­al producers in Canada.

It invites us to take the time to assess the potential dangers on farms, without forgetting the risks to mental health, too, she says.

“Farms are not only places of work, but also homes and even playground­s for children,” she says. “While new technologi­es and advanced equipment make farms more productive, they can bring new risks. An injury sustained on the farm can be devastatin­g – both emotionall­y and economical­ly – to producers and their families. The dangers are physical as well as mental: work and hours can be exhausting, and sometimes very stressful.”

Bibeau says most injuries are predictabl­e and preventabl­e if producers, farm managers and farm workers know what to look out for and how to avoid on-farm hazards.

But, she adds, “it’s human nature to forget about your well-being and safety when you feel overwhelme­d.”

And an overwhelmi­ng planting season is certainly in the cards this year.

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