Making Farm Safety #1

For generations, Farming and Ranching has been considered one of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in the US. It’s no secret that large animals can be very unpredictable, farm accidents occur both on and around the farm, and now and again there are farmer vs vehicle accidents on our nations roads. While many farm accidents are avoidable many are simply a hazard that goes along with the job. Murphy’s law. without a doubt. exists in Agriculture.

Being a farmer and a father of three, safety is a top priority on my farm. Accidents can, do and have happened over the years. Let’s just say after an accident long ago, we are very lucky to have my Dad here with us today. That being said, its understandable to say that my family is very safety conscious and, from time to time, takes additional measures to help ensure our own day to day safety on our farm.

Our latest example of increasing safety on our farm is a simple one, A right side step for our tractor.

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On many front wheel assist (similar to a 4×4 vehicle) tractors, there are steps on the left (drivers side) for the operator to get in and out of the cab. However since there is no cab access on the right side, there are no steps and nothing to stand on to access the right side of the tractor. This presents a problem when a headlight needs to be changed, when washing the tractor or when simply cleaning its windows. In order to complete those tasks, I normally have to climb up the rear of the tractor, then climb onto the rear outer tire in order to reach the lights, or clean the upper parts of the windows.

That’s until these parts came in the other day
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Here is a picture of what the right side of the tractor looks like as if it were New from the John Deere Factory in Waterloo IA.

(See how a new John Deere MFWD Tractor is made by clicking here)

The Muffler is on the right, and part of the fuel tank is showing below.

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With two of us at work, a few wrenches, and about a half hour, here is what it looks like now.

Side view of new side step and railing.

Front Right of Cab with new step and railing

At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I am very satisfied with the step, how easily we were able to install it, and the increased safety it offers. The only thing I will change on it is the color of the hand railing. This winter, the green railing will be removed, repainted to match the muffler’s black color and replaced so it wont stand out quite as much.

Yes, this example of increased safety was relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to install, but that is exactly the point. The Majority of the most valuable safety measures are indeed cheap and easy to install, yet seem to be commonly overlooked. Another example of a cheap and easy safety measure is a simple SMV sign which I wrote about on this blog a few days ago.

Check it out by clicking here: “While Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down”

In closing, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to look around their home or at their place of work and identify at least one thing that could be a safety hazard and address it. Weather its big or small, weather someone else notices or not, you will make a difference to someone. The someone who didn’t accidentally get injured thanks to a moment of your kindness.

God Bless

As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

We’ve all been there.  You are in a hurry, your driving down the road, with places to be and things to do and worst of all, your hungry.  Then ahead in the distance, there is a string of brake lights….yes another traffic jam.  As you get closer you see flashing yellow lights.  The thought of “construction again?” crosses your mind.  As you pull up on the car in front of you, you then realize it isn’t construction at all, its a piece of farm equipment doing a mere 20 mph  taking up nearly the whole road making it seemingly impossible to pass.  Frustration overcomes you, then maybe a little anger because you will surely be late for your appointment, or whatever else it may be.  But, eventually (after what seemed like an eternity) its your turn to pass.  Still frustrated and maybe still angry for being late, you might honk in displeasure and wave at the farmer as you drive by (Ill let you count the amount of fingers used).  But then life goes on, you pull into your favorite drive through and order up dinner to go (Ironic huh?) and get Safely on your way.

We’ve all been in those shoes before.  Running late, in a hurry, and stuck in traffic.  Its common everyday right?  Happens all the time and at the end of the day everyone gets home safe.  Not always.  According to The Michigan Secretary of State:

From 2004 through 2009, more than 1,000 crashes involving farm equipment occurred in Michigan. Of those crashes, 272 involved injuries and 22 fatalities.

In the coming weeks, Harvest will begin to gear up across the Midwest.  Drivers will see an increased number of Farm Equipment traveling our nations back roads, County Roads, and State Routes as well.  One thing all of these pieces of Farm Equipment have in common is a simple triangular shaped reflective sticker or panel attached to them.  Like the one below.  Now I have to assume most of you reading this have a valid drivers licence and know your road signs, but lets take a short quiz as a refresher.

What is the name of this Sign?

What Does it Mean?

Where do you usually find it?

I know, its an easy one right?  I hope it was.  Here’s the answers:

What is the name of the sign?

 SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle)

What does it Mean?

 The vehicle it is attached to is moving at a reduced rate of speed, usually around or under 25mph.

Where do you usually find it?

Rear of a John Deere Combine with SMV

How’d you do?  It was easy right?

These Slow Moving Vehicles present a challenge to their operators and other drivers alike.  I personally,  know all too well, that driving a slow, large, often tall and wide, piece of farm equipment from field to field has its challenges.  Narrow roads, narrow bridges, low clearance on overhead bridges, construction, etc etc, are huge concerns just to name a few.  However my (and other farmers) main concern is safety of  the other drivers who are on the road as well as our own.

While all farm equipment legally has to have a SMV attached to it before it can be driven on the road, many late model combines and tractors have numerous flashing (hazard) lights as well as Beacon Lights to warn other drivers of their slower speeds.  Still some drivers just don’t seem to notice and or respect the warnings these safety measures put out.

In my personal experience while driving farm equipment on the roads,  I have been passed on the right (on the shoulder), been honked at numerous times, seen “the finger” waved my way more times than I can count, have had a few near misses, and have ran partially off the road in order to avoid an accident.  I can go on and on.  However have been lucky enough to have never been in an actual Tractor or Combine vs Car accident, though many others have, like this

or this

From a farmers point of view, we understand that while driving our equipment on the roads presents a challenge to other drivers. However, moving our equipment from field to field via our nations roads is an important and necessary way for us to plant, care for and harvest our crops which help feed you and your family, as well as the world.  Just like every other driver on the road, a farmers top priority is getting to the next location safely.

So next time you are on your way to work, and come up on a SMV, like a Tractor or Combine, please slow down, most farmers will try to give you some room to pass when its safe, then maybe even give a wave.   Please remember,

 As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

 

Goodbye Old Friend

Today I parted ways with and old friend of many years.  I’ve known and have spent countless hours with this friend since I was a little one myself and know every thing about er.

 I basically grew up with this friend but after realizing this friends time has come and gone, I as well as my Dad and Uncle knew it was time to cut er free, and let er go.

Now this may sound a bit silly at first but hear me out, this friend isn’t a family pet, or a family member, or anything to get too terribly attached to, it’s a piece of Iron.

Yeah, I just might have made you say WTH? in your head, or maybe you get where I’m headed here.  Either way, let me explain:

This Old Friend is a 1980s model 4600 Cultivator:

Ever since I was barely big enough to sit on my Dads or Uncles lap in the tractor cab in the spring, this cultivator was behind me, tilling the dirt, prepping the fields for planting, etc etc.  Through out the years, I can fondly remember a few memories made here and there while pulling it through the field.  I learned (as a kid) that even though you have 4 tires on the main frame, if one goes flat, the others will not be of any help getting you to the other end of the field, they work together as a team.  I also learned how to change a tire on that day.  I can remember leveling off plowed ground with it one spring and coming up on a wet spot in the field, but it didn’t look too bad.  While the tractor made it through it just fine, when this old friend hit the spot, it went down..hard, and almost stopped the tractor as well.  I also remember learning a very important lesson about changing the sweeps (the part that actually moves the soil around when in the field).

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, attempt to hold the sweep bolt down with your finger if you are using an Air Wrench to take the nut off on the other side!

 I’m sure just about every farmer knows what I’m talking about there, but incase you don’t, here’s a short explanation on what happens when you spin that nut off the back side:  Since the front of the bolt is constantly  rubbed by soil, it wears flat, and gets very sharp edges.  Now picture, your finger holding it in place then all of a sudden that bolt spins around at an RPM high enough to slice your finger open in a flash.  The usual result is something like

Son of a *#&$^#&^&@#&@*&&^$,

followed by a lot of blood, water to clean the cut, and electrical tape…farmers dont need band aids 😉

The point is, I learned a lot from this old Red Friend, and will miss it.  Well, I suppose I wont really miss it, but I will miss the memories, life lessons learned  and much more that running this rig in the field taught me.

To loosely quote a conversation between my Uncle and I this past week,  I stated that it is just a piece of Iron, which is true, but he replied (in not so many words)

 Its more than that.  Its your heritage, your memories, it’s where you came from, it’s what got you to where you are today, it’s a part of who you are.

Today, Im finding those words to be very true.

To me this picture says it all.  Years ago, when I was a kid, this tractor and cultivator were perfect in every way.  Today, the tractor and soil finisher in the background are the widely considered to be the preferred tools to use.  I’m not saying either is good or bad, just that everything has its time.  And for this old Friend, its time has come on our farm.  So maybe, someday, my kids will look back on the tractor and soil finisher in the background with memories of their own, just as I am doing now.  Maybe, they will have their own stories to tell their kids (and you), as I do.  But one thing is for sure, they too will eventually have to say:

Goodbye Old Friend, and thanks for the Memories

A week without Facebook, and other Social Media sites: Lessons Leared

What would happen if you woke up one morning and couldn’t sign on your favorite social media site like Facebook, Twitter, Google+?   How would you feel?  How would you communicate with your friends?  How would it change your life?  Most importantly what would you learn from it?  That is exactly what happened to me.

For the last 2 years,  I have decided to give up Facebook Mobile on my phone for the Lenten time period of the 40 days before Easter.  Now while some of you may be laughing inside at the lack of relevance doing so has to everyday life, I’m sure the majority of you understand how not having mobile access to a major way of communication can affect you once you have already had it.

Did you know:   Over 700 Billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook, 20 million applications are installed per day and over 250 million people interact with Facebook from outside the official website on a monthly basis, across 2 million websites. Over 200 million people access Facebook via their mobile phone. 48% of young people said they now get their news through Facebook. Meanwhile, in just 20 minutes on Facebook over 1 million links are shared, 2 million friend requests are accepted and almost 3 million messages are sent.

via: Facebook Statistics

Now, I didn’t give up FB entirely, I could still go on my computer and catch up with everyone later in the day, so it was really no big deal. Having said that, I decided to take giving up Facebook to the next level for this year by giving up Social Media Entirely for 7 days!  Check out my previous blog on the subject, Giving it Up.

For the 2012 Lenten season I decided to go on a week-long Social Media Detox.  The Social Media Detox consisted of 7 days of absolutely no Social Media, including Facebook (except for my farm Page) Boucher Farms, Google+, StumbleUpon, Twitter and more.  I also decided to give up Social Media based online games such as Scramble, Words With Friends, and more.   In order to eliminate the temptation of playing a game or signing on the sites, I simply deleted the apps from my phone.  As you can imagine, staying away from social media for a week wasnt the easiest thing to do, but I am proud to say I did it and learned a few things from it like:

  1.  While it is nice to keep up with friends on FB and other Social Media sites throughout the day, there is really not a need to be constantly updated on my phone about whatever it may be.  It can wait till later.
  2. While I may missed out on a few things here and there on FB and other Social Media Sites throughout the day, I quickly discovered how much time I actually had during the day when I didn’t sit down to mess with my phone or computer.
  3. While I missed conversing with my Social Media Friends, I found myself spending more quality time with the ones who matter the most to me, my family.
  4. Social Media based games are a blast, but I didn’t really miss them.
  5. Since I deleted the social media apps from my phone, I basically turned my smart phone back into a regular phone.  I discovered after being used to having the world at my fingertips, having a basic phone is NOT an option for me.

So what are the lessons learned? 

  1. Social Media has its very important and ever-expanding place in today’s world of communications, however it also does not have to be constantly “checked in on.”  The viral video of the day can wait till the end of the day.
  2. Quality time is quality time.  Weather it be on a Social Media site  or with family and friends, make the most of the time you have and try not to mix the two together.  Honestly,while there are times when they work well together they usually interfere with each other like oil and water.
  3. Social Media games like Words With Friends, and other fun apps are great, but only use them to pass a few minutes of time.  Dont let time escape you while you are using them.

It’s easy to sit here, typing on my computer and state the lessons I learned, however as we all know actually living by them can be difficult.  So here’s my plan. 

I plan on checking FB, Google+ etc in the mornings, and at night, after the kids go to bed.  This doesn’t mean I wont post a pic or two from my phone throughout the day and check a notification or two, from time to time, but it does mean I wont be on as much in the heart of the day. 

Like I stated above, It can wait. 

“Letting it wait” has proven to save a lot of time which I can use to achieve other things in life including the most important thing, spending time with family.

I should add a note too,   I’m not against Facebook or other types of Social Media, in fact I believe they are a great communications tool which when correctly utilized has unlimited potential to bring people together and make the world a smaller and smaller place.  However, it does have some side effects like pulling the Social Media contributor away from the people who are around them, physically.  Achieving the balance of the two is the challenge.

As the old saying goes…”Everything in Moderation”

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

Are College Degrees Surrounding Food and Animals and Plants Really “Useless”?

While doing my usual scroll through the social media landscape yesterday I discovered Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be abuzz about what College degrees were useful in today’s society and which were not.  Having a Degree from Iowa State University myself, I found myself interested in finding out what degrees were deemed useless based on facts.  So I clicked on the article that everyone seemed to be talking about

http://education.yahoo.net/articles/most_useless_degrees.htm.

The Yahoo article turned out to be a blog post of sorts citeing info from the Department of Labor (indirectly) with quite a few of the authors opinions mixed in and few real facts.   So what were the top five listed “Useless Degrees” you ask?

  1. Agriculture
  2. Fashion Design
  3. Theater
  4. Animal Science
  5. Horticulture

Judging by this list, apparently no one needs to :

  1. Eat
  2. Wear Clothes
  3. Watch Actors on TV or Broadway
  4. Have pets care options
  5. Have any Landscaping around their houses, Golf Courses, Football Fields, or local Flower shops.

From a guys point of view, we need all of these!  WE love to eat good food provided by farmers and others in the Ag industry, we can’t live without a good pair of Jeans and a T-shirt, there are few things better than watching a great action movie, mans best friend needs a good vet like Kata Nichols (a vet with a Animal Science Degree) to go to once in a while, and sometimes most importantly us guys need a good local Florist to provide us with flowers for our wives/girlfriends or both (just kidding) from time to time.  Not to exclude the girls, but lets face it, while the the above could be said for you too gals too, I doubt you buy flowers for the guy in your life.

After reading the article I began to think about the value of my degree I worked hard to get, a Bachelors in Agricultural Business.  While I was fortunate enough to be able to come home to work on and eventually take over the everyday operations of our farm, there were many other job opportunities along the way that my Ag Degree allowed me to pursue.  I recall going to an agricultural job fair at ISU where countless companies from all across the country were actively seeking those with Ag Degrees to work for them.  No Degree…NO Job.  It’s that simple.  I wonder if going to the job fair was “useless”  hmm….  NO.   Like I said above, I didn’t take any of those 9-5 jobs which my degree allowed me to enter into, however I do work in the AG field on my own farm.  While I may not need a degree to run my farm, I value it and the education I received greatly because it helps me everyday, in every decision I make which in turn makes my farm better than it would have without a degree.  Many others in my situation would agree.

AG FACTS:

  1. Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college, with over half of his group obtaining a degree. A growing number of today’s farmers and ranchers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies
  2. Agriculture employs 17% of the U.S. workforce, or about 23 million people.
  3. Agriculture employs more than six times as many workers a the U.S. automotive industry

Back to the original article,  In response to the article a Facebook Page was quickly created appropriately named

“I Studied Agriculture, and I have a Job”

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Studied-Agriculture-I-Have-A-Job/306700539376086?sk=wall

 Almost immediately the page took off and was running…well sprinting…well…something faster than that, maybe like a speeding Indy Car.  It seemed to be gaining exponential popularity as the day went on.  As of this morning, less than 24 hours into the pages young life it had over 2500 likes and growing.  As for the time this post was written, it is boasts over 2700 likes.  Countless posts on the page have stated what degree the posting person has, how they use it and why they believe the article to be in error.  Recently other media types have even picked up on the flaws of the Yahoo Article like those listed below:

The Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-s-levine/useless-college-majors_b_1217401.html

And AG DAY on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l_d3zdx0jI&feature=share

And even other media stations like WIBW.

http://www.wibw.com/blogs/melissa/Useless_Degrees_This_List_Doesnt_Sit_Well_137706603.html

An Agricultural Photographer https://www.facebook.com/#!/lens.of.a.farm.girl Posted these pictures

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=314532528589459&set=a.314531975256181.70626.309663002409745&type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=314532841922761&set=a.314531975256181.70626.309663002409745&type=1&theater

In the end, if the author was looking for attention he got it.  But in the end, which is more useless, the degree or the article?   In my honest opinion even this flawed article wasnt totally useless because it had 2 items of value.

  1. It brought the AG, Animal Science and Horticulture (all 3 of which are Agriculture Based) together
  2. It proves just how important the AG industry is to our world, and how many jobs are out there for those with AG Degrees.

So, I suppose, in a weird way, we should Thank the author for not doing his homework, studying his sources, or filling in the blanks (so to speak) on his article.  Wait…that kinda sounds like what we all had to complete to get our degrees doesnt it?  Have a great day, and God Bless!

Follow me on Twitter (@boucherfarms) Facebook Page (Boucher Farms) Google+ (Matt Boucher)

#BsLabels, Boneless Bananas, Popcorn, and Marketing.

A few weeks ago, the Term “Boneless Bananas” came into my vocabulary for the first time ever thanks to a post on www.thefarmerslife.wordpress.com and its author Brian Scott.

What are boneless bananas?  Well believe it or not, you can purchase them at your local grocery store, market, or even the famous Trader Joes.  They are yellow in color, (sometimes pale green) are usually sold by the bunch (by the pound) or sold individually.  I can even guarantee that if you ever have eaten bananas you have consumed a boneless one at some given time in your life.

Confused? concerned?  I bet you never knew there was a such thing as boneless bananas!  The truth is there is.  That is simply because ALL bananas are boneless.  To say that a banana is “boneless” (according to yahoo answer search) simply describes their shape.  However, if someone (who didn’t know any better) saw a sales sticker in a store such as this:

Someone (again who didn’t know any different) may be more inclined to purchase these vs regularly labeled bananas.  Afterall the sign implies that other bananas have bones right?  And who wants to chip a tooth on a bone when biting into a banana!

     So how does this relate to popcorn?  While watching the local news the other day, a “heathy food expert” recommended popcorn as a good healthy snack.  Now, I like popcorn, and have actually grown some myself in the past, so she had my attention.  The next thing this “expert” said really caught my ear.  She proceeded to recommend “whole grain popcorn….” such as this…

Now, I’ve always known that corn, or popcorn in this case is considered a whole grain food in its natural state, but didn’t know if it was still considered a whole grain after popping.  A google search lead me to:

 http://www.orville.com/whole-grain-snack.jsp

This site stated that all popcorn is Whole Grain even after it is popped.  Very interesting.  I learned something new.  Taking this intriguing idea to the next step, I began to look around for signs of “Boneless Bananas”  well, similar #BSLablels.  I began to look for popcorn labeled as Whole Grain.  I found that like the picture above, mostly all of Orville’s popcorn (as well as a few other brands) are labeled as Whole Grain.   However many other brands  are not.  The question I had to ask myself is, If I didn’t know about popped popcorn being a whole grain, would I (or other consumers) be more inclined to purchase the package marked Boneless Bananas, (excuse me, sorry)  “Whole Grain” vs one that isn’t marked?  I’ll let you decide that one for yourself.

Since I usually (maybe excessively) try to take a look at the marketing side of labeling and packaging, (which I believe my wife is probably rolling her eyes right now)  I began to see why Boneless Bananas and Whole Grain Popcorn are marketed the way they are.  Its not about providing healthy popcorn or bananas without a hard boney center. It’s about getting you to purchase their product, even if it means stating the plain and simple truths that the consumer may not put much thought into while picking out food items at the store.

Moral of this story,

While the “Boneless Bananas” and “Whole Grain Popcorn” labels are clearly true in nature, they are not necessary because every Banana is Boneless, and Every kernel of Popcorn is Whole Grain.  In a way, that makes these labels #BSLabels

Want more BS Labels?  Search #bslabels on twitter, Facebook or blog sites around the internet today, for today is BS Labels Day!

I hope you enjoyed this post, learned something, and most importantly, it made you smile.  Now, I’m off to eat a boneless banana.  HAHA

Local Everyday Heros

Tonight was a night not much different from any other saturday night, and although we usually go to our local Church for Mass on Sunday, the family and I were headed to Saturday night mass tonight instead. But still, Like I said, tonight wasnt much different from any other saturday night.  That was untill mass was just about over.

At that time, my oldest child (in the pew at church) turned around to pick up her coat, then somehow tripped and fell hitting her head on the way down.  As a parent, you never want to see your kids get hurt or have any kind of pain, however being a Dad of 3 kids under 6, I’ve learned not to get too worried because bumps and bruises happen all the time. This was not one of those times.  Quickly after hitting her head, she began to cry (at this point I’m still not too worried).  After my wife and I reached to pick her up, we realized the back of her head was bleeding, A LOT.  We both quickly rushed her to the church bathroom and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.  Within a few seconds, some good friends came to the rescue (God Bless you Mrs Shultz and family).  She graciously gave my wife and I some quick advice and called 911 for us as well as jumping in and watching over our other kids too (our own and our Youth Group kids who we were with).  She and her family are Local Everyday Heros in my book.

After the 911 call was made, 3 other Local Everyday Heroes arrived.  2 EMTs and one of our towns finest.  The EMTs (one of who also leads the local girl scout troop) came to our aid and quickly and professionally.  They helped us stop the bleeding, helped keep both of us and our daughter calm, and quickly extinguished any fears our daughter had about stitches or worse.  Amongst thoughts and concerns about my little one, another  thought kept coming through.  Do the Local Everyday Heros we are surrounded by really know how much they are appreciated?  Does Mrs. Shultz really know how much she helped us tonight?  Does she know how much we appreciate her and  what she did?  Do the EMT’s know how much they are appreciated for everything they do?  Sadly the answer is probably no.

A few years ago we were in a similar situation when my little guy had a febrile seizure in a restaurant and an unknown local hero (off duty EMT) ran to our side.  I regret that in the hustle and bustle of the moment we found ourselves in, I never had the chance to get his name or simply to stop, shake his hand, and say THANK YOU for everything he did that night.  So tonight, I am taking this time to say THANK YOU to the off duty EMT who helped us back then;  to say THANK YOU to the EMTs and Officer who come to our aid tonight; to say THANK YOU to all of the Mrs. Shultz’s of the world who instinctively run to the aid of others in need, even when they dont have to.

 Tonight I am taking this time to say THANK YOU to all of our Local Everyday Heros who more than likely do not know how much they are appreciated and how much they mean to us as well as everyone around them.

THANK YOU!