Last weekend, I was driving home from a Minnesota Twins game on Interstate 94. As I replayed the excitement of Joe Mauer's walk-off home run that led to the Twins defeating the Boston Red Sox 4-3 the night prior, I was also trying to navigate through metro traffic during road construction. Easily my least favorite time of year, road construction is the silent fifth season that can last anywhere from March to November in the Midwest. It's a pain that we all are aware will return each year, but somehow never anticipate the backed-up traffic, delays and detours it brings.
As I got off the exit into Jackson County, Wis., however, I was greeted with a traffic jam that I pleasantly welcome: cars slowly driving behind a tractor on its way to spring planting. Living in a rural community, we often slow ourselves down for implements with orange triangles instead of being stuck in gridlock due to orange road cones. As a driver, both can bring frustrations, but planting is a time of celebration as farmers embark on a new growing season.
After a wet and rainy start to the spring, farmers across the Midwest were in the fields last week to get a start to the crop year. While planting season often feels rushed due to weather restrictions, it is important for farmers and community members, alike, to remember several tips to a safe and successful planting.
Take your kids to work, but be mindful of their capabilities: Youth involvement on the farm is both expected and encouraged. However, it is important to remember to be cautious of how involved your child is. Make sure age and level of responsibility is matched with a child's ability to complete a chore. Remind youth of safety measures and be sure to supervise them when necessary. Even when simply riding along in the tractor, you can never be too cautious with youth on the farm.
Be a role model, on the road and in the field: Having youth involved in planting and driving on highways means you are in the eyes of all of those around you. Be a model of safety and practice what you preach. Teaching and practicing proper safety skills will encourage those around you to mimic your actions.
Know your surroundings: Before jumping into the fields, critically look over your implements, equipment and surroundings for hazards. Taking a preventative approach to planting is the easiest way to prevent accidents before they happen. Potentially hazardous obstacles should not be overlooked before they become actual hazards to you and those around you.
Rest up: Everyone wants to get as much done as possible in a day's work, but it is important to remember to recharge and re-energize. Taking breaks is important to offset fatigue. Failure to do so is a leading cause of injuries and mistakes.
Make and embrace rules: Finally, it is important for your family and employees to know the rules. Clearly identify the roles each person is and is not responsible for. Understand the rules of the road in your area and follow them to avoid potential hiccups that will otherwise set you back. Whether you're driving the tractor or your car, take your time on the roads.
Nobody likes a traffic jam, but when it comes to planting, I am always excited for what the new season will hold. While I may be set back five minutes by following an implement, it's my responsibility to be cautious and respectful of farmers on the road. As you dive into the full-swing of planting, remember to be cautious and respectful of your fellow farmers while exercising safe practices in the field.