Wednesday of this past week was a very tough day. Just as I was feeding a new calf, a neighbor called with bad news. She told me of a terrible accident that happened early that morning involving a tractor and a semi that had collided. The driver of a tractor was killed. He was the 58-year-old husband of a dear friend.
    The rest of the day was a blur. It included planning with other friends to provide support for the family. We brought food they might need, gave hugs and comfort. I made some very challenging phone calls to our own children who had grown up playing sports, going to school, socializing and showing at the county fair with the children of our farmer friend who had lost his life in the accident.
         This was the second accident in our FFA/4-H family in just a few weeks’ time. Another father of friends died in an accident involving a large round bale while feeding his beef cattle. His boys were in FFA and high school ag classes with our kids. Both men were people who contributed to the county fair, many of their children’s activities and were always helping with anything and everything that needed a volunteer. They are, of course, irreplaceable to their families, friends and to their communities. They had meaningful lives and many who love them.
         I write about this topic not to dwell on tragedies, but because we can often overlook the need to pay attention to farm safety. It hits very close to home when the people involved in the accidents are neighbors and friends.
    With spring planting coming and a busy summer of putting up forages and all kinds of additional crop work, safety will be on my mind. I hope it will be on everyone’s mind.
    As I am sure many of you do on your farms during busy times, I mention being safe and careful fairly often. I am sure it is not often enough. As my father always told me when I drove anywhere, “Slow down.” That advice is good for any kind of farm task, whether it involves operating a vehicle with a motor or not. Slowing down and really thinking about the task at hand is no doubt a good way to put safety at the forefront.
    I try to be aware of who is doing what during the day and to be on alert for anything that might be going wrong. But I admit there are a lot of things that can and do cause unsafe work hazards on a farm. People often work by themselves, and there are sometimes unsafe situations.
    A review of safety procedures on every farm is probably overdue and necessary on a routine basis. There are plenty of farm safety resources online. Printing some of the safety procedures and placing them where people see them could help boost awareness.
    A simple thing like making sure fire extinguishers are placed where needed and available is something to think about.
    What about making sure the PTOs on unloaders are covered? How about reviewing safety procedures that should be used during storms or other weather-related events? Do employees and family members need a short course in animal behavior and cattle-moving techniques?
    Machinery is one of the top causes of fatal ag injuries according to the Farm Bureau Rural Insurance website. Here is their list of 10 equipment safety tips:
    – Read and comply with the manual.
    – Follow and keep up with federal and state laws.
    – Always keep your slow-moving-emblem clean, visible and properly mounted.
    – Dress appropriately.
    – Ensure you are well rested.
    – Avoid alcohol.
    – Maintain awareness.
    – Adjust equipment accordingly.
    – Keep children and animals away from equipment.
    – Read up about planter equipment safety.
    The list is a quick starting point, and there is much more detail on every aspect of farm safety on the internet. Why not take a few minutes this spring to review safety ideas? Maybe your farm needs a point person for safety. Maybe a young person on your farm needs a project for 4-H or FFA and safety could be the emphasis.
    I suppose it goes without saying that we should all strive to be safe in our work at all times. It is another thing to make sure it happens.
    Please be safe in the busy days ahead. We need everyone in this resurgence of spring as we continue to do the work we love with those we love.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.