View From the Cab 09/23 11:15
Tips to Keep Mind and Body Safe This Season
Are you treating your body as well as you do your farm equipment? The most
important tool on the farm may be getting the least attention.
Crops Technology Editor
DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Some like to talk about how farmers feed the world,
but Kellie Blair's goal this harvest is to make sure the farmers in her family
are fed properly.
"I'm farming all day myself and bringing meals to the field isn't an option.
So, preparing and filling the freezer with nutritious options we can throw in
the lunchbox is the plan this year," she said. Blair, who farms near Dayton,
Iowa, with her husband, AJ, said farmers tend to take care of everything but
themselves during this stressful season.
"AJ had a health scare several years ago and it turned out to be
dehydration. It was a valuable lesson of how important simple things like
drinking water can be," she noted.
There's a reason the word health is included in the National Farm Safety and
Health Week (Sept. 19-25) moniker. Mind, body, spirit balance may sound corny,
but Ryan Wieck has found making it a priority helps with mental alertness.
"I keep trying to remind myself that harvest is a marathon, not a sprint,"
said the Umbarger, Texas, farmer. "I'm trying to do a better job of not getting
caught up in the moment. There are times weather is closing in and it's obvious
we need to get things done.
"But often, working late into the night just results in everyone being
tired. So, we're trying to take the attitude that harvest is going to go on for
a while. Work hard during the day and make sure we get home, get a good meal
and a good night's sleep so we can work again the next day," Wieck said.
Wieck and Blair are participating in DTN's View From the Cab project. The
two farmers report in weekly during the growing season about crop conditions,
farm life and rural issues.
This week they take on topics such as skin cancer scares; planting wheat
into dry conditions; the adventures of building a branded beef business; and
the need to take a long walk down a country road.
RYAN WIECK -- UMBARGER, TEXAS
Several weeks ago, Ryan Wieck had some "weird spots" that appeared on his
face, ears and arms. Taking time out for a trip to the dermatologist wasn't
what he wanted to do, but the worry was worse.
When everything checked out fine with a reminder to wear sunscreen and come
back in another year for a recheck, the relief more than compensated for the
work time lost, Wieck said. This year Wieck invested in some floppy hats that
do a better job of keeping sun off the face and ears.
Hearing protection is something else he's paying closer attention to these
days. He utilizes ear plugs or noise-canceling earmuffs, depending on the job.
He doesn't worry that much about hearing mechanical issues. "I tend to feel
mechanical problems while driving -- either through my feet or my seat," he
This week Wieck began dry sowing wheat at about 1/2-inch depth. "We don't
have enough moisture in the soil to get the wheat to sprout and come up. I am
dropping the wheat seed in the dry dirt shallower than normal knowing the only
way it will come up is with the right amount of moisture," he said.
He said several scenarios could play out in those wheat fields:
-- A quarter of an inch of rain falls and no other moisture. The moisture
will reach the wheat seed, it will sprout, and then die because a quarter of an
inch isn't enough to keep it alive and growing.
-- Several hard inches of rain fall in a short time. The rain will run off,
wash out the seed, cover some of it too deep to survive, and/or pack the ground
too hard so the wheat can't push through the crust.
-- Perfect rain and perfect conditions after the rain allows for perfect
"I am farming on faith that option three is the kind of weather we get,"
Wieck said. It's not the first hard decision he's faced on these fields this
year. Weed control went awry in several fields and tillage prior to seeding
turned out to be his only practical option. Ordinarily the wheat would be
"Chemicals were almost impossible to find, those we did use were expensive
and didn't work very well and weed size was a factor," he said. "Sure, I
worried about plowing out moisture, but when you don't have moisture does it
He used a Fallow Master-brand tool to cut weed roots while leaving the
majority of the residue exposed to soak up those rains that he's praying come.
The tillage tool utilizes two ranks of 26-inch hard-faced sweeps.
Going in this late in September should control all the winter annuals and
grasses. He'll use an application of 2,4-D or another herbicide around the end
of February or early March.
This week Wieck heads to stripper school. "That's not something I ever
thought I'd be saying," he joked. The new to him cotton stripper bales cotton,
rather than collecting bolls.
Read more about why the Texas Panhandle grows stripper cotton and more about
the machines that pick it in last week's View From the Cab report:
Cotton bolls continue to open, but Wieck is steeling himself this year for
the verdict on yield. Some cotton shed bolls midseason due to drought. He had
2,4-D herbicide injury from spray drift. Then a devastating hailstorm hit
several hundred acres.
"I just can't assess what kind of crop we're going to have. Usually by this
time of year, I have a good handle on that. The plants look good, but there
aren't a lot of bolls on them. I'm seeing a wide variety in size of those that
are there," he said.
KELLIE BLAIR -- DAYTON, IOWA
Kellie Blair hustled to whittle the remainder of her pre-harvest to-do list
as the first soybeans started to roll into the combine hopper. The central Iowa
region has just started to kick into gathering gear, she noted.
But first on her list was making some beef deliveries. Blair Farm started
direct-to-consumer beef sales in 2020. Beyond locker beef sales to individuals,
the farm is also marketing through several local grocery stores. A new client
does custom smoking and catering.
"I'm really enjoying the grocery store experience and these larger customers
since I can deliver on my schedule and in quantity," she said. Chefs or
restaurants tend to want specific cuts like ribs or brisket.
The grocery sales have surprised her -- both in quantity and the cuts
purchased. "I thought it would be a lot of ground beef and hamburger patties
because of convenience. Instead, we are finding those customers going more for
roasts, steaks and other high-end cuts," she said. "And, there's a lot more
ground beef per animal than the other, higher-end cuts."
So far, the Blair Farm meat is packaged in the white freezer wrap as it
comes from the locker with a farm logo sticker. Hamburger is in plastic tubes
or patties in wrapped packages. Everything is frozen. Blair said the slow
ground sales may indicate customers prefer to buy ground meat fresh or see the
"What I'm really happy with is the comments we are getting back about how
satisfied people are with their purchases," she said. "We're just sticking our
toe into this direct-to-consumer market, but so far it has helped us add value
to our product."
Promoting good nutrition to others is also making her take a hard look at
her own lunchbox this harvest. "It might be easier to grab a leftover piece of
pizza, but I'm trying to buckle down on doing a better job of fueling our
bodies right," she said.
When it comes to farm safety, her big fear is moving equipment. Keeping slow
moving vehicle signs clean and in good repair is important. So is making sure
lights and machinery taillights are in good working order. Blair Farm tries to
move equipment during daylight hours.
When AJ brought home a safety harness to wear working around the grain bins
several years ago, his wife was more than thrilled. "The best thing is, he uses
it," she said.
Like Wieck, one of the big safety measures for Blair Farm is knowing when to
call it a day. "We try to quit at dark," she said. "It's becoming more and more
important the older we get -- and I know we aren't old!"
The passing years are making her realize farmers may work hard mentally, but
they don't always work as hard physically as was once the case. "Harvest is
long and stressful and tiring, but I'm realizing we aren't moving as much as we
"On my agenda is to get up early and take a mile walk before we start
working," Blair said. "I'll let you know how that goes."
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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