March 30, 2014

Watch out for farm machinery

When spring finally arrives and the snow and ice finally melts, you will see our North Country farmers take to the road to prepare the fields for spring tillage and planting.

Because of what seems like a colder and longer spring than normal, farmers all across the county are anxious to get started. As the size and scale of local farms has increased, the equipment needed to do the work in a timely manner has also increased in size and capacity.

Large trucks and tractors are increasingly being used by farmers to spread manure and till the fields in preparation for planting. As these large machines travel the road, it is even more important than ever for farmers and motorists to take care to avoid disasters.

In the past 60 years, farms have transitioned from horses and small gasoline tractors to immense, four-wheel-drive articulated tractors that can do many times the work producing more crops in less time using fewer inputs than ever before. In the 1940s, my father grew up on a local dairy farm and remembers using horses to mow and rake hay, pull wagons and do routine chores.

Much of the powered equipment such as hay balers and corn choppers were not pulled into the field, but remained stationary, with the crops being brought to the machine for processing. Gradually over the following decades, farm machinery evolved into what we see today.

Farm safety has been a concern for many years. Agriculture in the United States is one of the most hazardous industries, only surpassed by mining and construction. Older tractors and farm machinery had few or no provisions for safety. Often tall and narrow, older tractors had a higher center of gravity and were more likely to flip over.

Today’s tractors routinely come equipped with rollover protection, seat belts, hazard lights and many other safety features. Modern electronics, disc brakes, rear-view mirrors, radios and even air-conditioned cabs all make the working environment less stressful and more productive. By reducing fatigue, modern tractors have increased safety and reduced accidents.

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