Counties bring a local perspective to farm safety

There are many ways to educate farmers and the public about farm and rural safety. Boone and Lake County Farm Bureaus have approached the issue by considering it from a local – and personal – angle.

Boone County’s new “Be Aware, Farmers Are Everywhere” campaign was inspired by a local tragedy. Farm Bureau member Joe Garst died May 16, according to The Lebanon Reporter, due to injuries sustained when his tractor was hit by a box truck. Garst, 66, is survived by his wife, Wanda, and their five children.

            Ginny Rodgers, county education & outreach coordinator, said that in the aftermath of his death, his family, Extension and Farm Bureau considered how best to honor his memory while also educating the public about rural road safety. Unfortunately, nobody had to look too hard for a precedent since Boone County Farm Bureau had lost another member in 2005, which inspired a safety campaign with the slogan “Be Patient, Be Kind, Stay Behind.” Stickers bearing that message were sold and the proceeds went to a scholarship fund that is still going strong, Rodgers said.

            A campaign to honor Garst’s memory began at the 2018 Boone County 4-H Fair, during which window decals, stickers and magnets bearing the “Be Aware” message were given away in exchange for donations. The profits haven’t been totaled yet, Rodgers explained, but many donations were collected, and the plan is to fund another scholarship that will start in 2019.

The county plans to continue the campaign for some months yet with posters in local agribusinesses, banks and other businesses, and perhaps by exhibiting during the trade show at Indiana Farm Bureau’s convention, she added.

            Lake County Farm Bureau’s safety campaign also originated from a local issue. Member Rex Daugherty happened to hear a statistic that troubled him: At least one of his county’s fire departments has a personnel turnover rate of 51 percent. What would that mean, he wondered, in terms of specialized training – including grain bin rescue training? Lake County had been one of the sponsors of that training a few years back.

“I was thinking about it, and if turnover is 50 or 51 percent, maybe we need to do it again,” he said.

“I’m 27, so a lot of guys my age or younger may not have ever had the training,” he said, noting that even those who had it before could probably use a refresher.

The result is a training session to be held in September on a farm in Hebron.