Cautious farmer gives thumbs up to 15-second safety checks

Farming has always been a family affair, with traditions passed down and legacies created. As a seventh generation farmer, Jeff Fisher of Tolono sticks to an important habit his grandfathers and his dad Gary established.

During harvest in the early 1970s, Gary was cleaning a grain auger. Nothing was running. But his dad didn’t turn the breaker off or unplug the cord. When he stuck his hand inside, the auger unexpectedly sprung to life, taking his dad’s thumb with it. Surgeons reattached his thumb, and Gary has some use of it today.

Fisher said keeping his fingers, arms and toes is important, but what he wants most is to provide for his family.

“If I’m not around tomorrow, who will take care of my family? My farm?” Fisher said.

That’s why among the many hats Fisher wears around the farm, none is as important as safety director.

During National Farm Safety and Health Week, Carle asks all farm families to go beyond practicing safe behavior and consider pre-planning for life-or-death emergencies.

It takes only 10 to 15 minutes to complete written directions to your properties, especially those fields with no known address. Visit carle.org/farmsafety today to make a lasting impact and put those directions in the hands of a loved one who will call for help when you need it.

Fisher said safety doesn’t slow him down. It takes less than 10 seconds to unplug machinery or remove keys from equipment before working on them.

“My grandfathers and dad were always safety-conscious, and we’re more aware of new hazards with more automation today,” Fisher said. Farming ranks as the most dangerous occupation in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, so Fisher leads by example.

Younger eyes, his grandkid and kids, are always watching and picking up good habits.

Children can start with age-appropriate jobs like walking in soybean fields where there are no machines required and later move up to riding lawn mowers. Latest model tractors and combines have a training seat in the cab. As they grow older, they can observe tools and machines safely being used so they have a feel for how they work before they ever touch them or use them on their own.

Harvest and planting seasons are serious business. Before moving tractors or trucks, Fisher looks and listens for obstacles – including people. He makes sure kids aren’t crawling around in wagons. As fun as they sound, there are no tractor and combine rides allowed.

Simple rules to live by on the Fisher farm: Turn if off. Put it in park. Take the keys. Unplug equipment. Disconnect power sources like plugs and batteries, and use lock-out, tag-out.

“Do it right not fast. There are potential hazards everywhere,” Fisher said.

When asked if he’ll accept the Carle farm and field directory challenge, Fisher said, “My kids are already on it!” And Fisher encourages other farmers to get on this right away.

 “I have two arms and legs, 10 fingers and toes because safety is always number one for me.” Fisher said.

For more information on farm safety during harvest and always, visit carle.org/farmsafety.