I noticed the new schedule for University of Nebraska Extension Tractor Safety and Hazardous Occupations courses for youth coming up this summer. The two-day courses, set up for 14- and 15-year-olds, will be coming to Kearney (May 23-24), Concord (May 29-30), Gering (June 3-4), Valentine (June 6-7), Osceola (June 10-11), North Platte (June 13-14) and Grand Island (June 17-18). Here is the complete registration information.
I can recall my first experience driving a tractor. When I was about 12 years old, Dad put me in the seat of our Farmall Super H tractor pulling a low hay cart. He dropped it down in granny gear and I let the clutch fly, speeding through the myriad of small square bales in our alfalfa field at a blazing clip of about one mile per hour or less. My only instructions were to drive between the bales and not hit them. Dad yelled out instructions as he threw the bales on the cart.
Although that tractor did not have a cab, it moved quite slowly. But Dad gave me his list of safety instructions, always reminding me where the kill switch was in case I got into trouble.
Today, tractors, ATVs and utility vehicles are much bigger and faster than our Super H. They are more expensive and complicated, and require more knowledge to operate safely. That’s why safety courses like the UNL Extension tractor driving classes and the tractor driving contests hosted by FFA chapters around the state are so important.
The most common cause of death on Nebraska farms and ranches is overturned tractors and ATVs. So, preventing overturning and other farm machinery accidents is a big part of the coursework. Youth and the elderly are the age groups most likely to be involved in farm accidents. For youth, it is probably because of lack of experience with the machines.
During the Extension courses, the first day of class is spent in intensive classroom instruction, along with hands-on demonstrations. Students must complete a written test satisfactorily before operating and driving machinery during the second day of the coursework.
The more youth know and understand about the machines they are operating on the farm, the better they will be able to handle these machines. A key to preventing farm accidents is allowing age-appropriate tasks for youth involved, and not getting anyone in over their heads. A key to caring for the next generation of farmers is to engage them in farming operations in a safe way.
That’s why all safety courses relating to agriculture and youth on the farm, whether it is through Extension, FFA, 4-H or community programs, are time and effort well spent.
Here is this week’s discussion question. What do you recall about your first experience driving a tractor? Let us know what you were driving and how it went.
Be sure to watch Nebraska Farmer online and read our upcoming May print issue of Nebraska Farmer for the latest farm and ranch news for our region. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at Dateline Drought. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my new “Field Editor’s Report” featuring the positive stories about the families who raise our food. Pass it on!