Fresh ideas: Consider farm resolutions for the new year

By Kris Medic

Forgive me for adding to the overload of New Year’s resolutions that seem to come our way this time of year. You are welcome to take what is useful to you, and ignore the rest.

One of these might save your life, or the life of a loved one, or your farm. If you are already doing any of these, take a bow.

Purdue Extension offers best practices in many areas of agriculture throughout the year. The following are a few that stand out, and seem worthy as new habits. And recall: Anything you do for 30 days or so becomes habit. A good habit is better than a resolution any day. Please consider:

Adopt grain bin safety basics

Nearly 75 percent of the 900 grain bin entrapments reported since 1964 resulted in death. To work the prevention end of things, use technology to monitor and manage stored grain, reducing the need for bin entry. Follow standards for safe entry, including lockout/tagout, lifeline use and communication.

Elevate tractor safety practices

Nationally, it is estimated that between 500 and 600 individuals are killed each year in tractor accidents, and for every person killed at least 40 others are injured.

You probably know someone whose family was touched by a tragedy of this kind. Locally, our 4-H Tractor Club does an outstanding job of training young people in tractor safety. Come watch them compete at next year’s 4-H Fair.

Use protective equipment

Whether it’s the harness for the lifeline, or personal protective equipment for mixing, loading or applying pesticides, find what works for you and meets the standard — and use it.

If you have been paying attention, you’ll know that the coolness factor for some of these items has gone way up. And staying alive and well has its own reward.

Observe chainsaw safety

Outcomes can become tragic when untrained folks head up a ladder or a tree with a chainsaw. Even those trained can run into trouble, as you probably have observed.

“Know what you don’t know” is a good approach. A consulting forester or certified arborist can often do a job more readily, and with less expense and risk, than someone without training.

Work your business plan

A plan, or at least an enterprise budget, can help you to make those many daily decisions in a way that moves you toward your goal.

Have an exit plan

Farmers who know under what conditions they will stop farming have more clarity on daily decisions and the set conditions for stopping farming. The answers are different with each person.

Some have to do with income, while others have to do with family time or age or enjoyment. Having a plan helps to put the bad days into perspective as well.

Think through farm succession

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 70 percent of U.S. farmland will change hands in the next 20 years. Considering and deciding how the business will outlive your time in it gives you clear steps and informs your daily decisions.

Start an estate plan

Failure to make estate planning decisions often leads to situations where others are making them for you.

Optimize your insurance

Protection from liability is great, but insurance can also be used as a tool for funding an estate or farm succession plan as well as buy/sell agreements.

Learn something new

Picking up new and useful information is great for energizing and improving an operation. This year just in Bartholomew County, Purdue Extension will offer workshops on family forest succession, fruit tree pruning and homesteading. We’ll also offer a pond management clinic and a twilight pasture walk. Applicator training and Code Red will be offered in January.

Call our office at 812-379-1665 to get on a mailing list, or check the Purdue Extension — Bartholomew County Agriculture Facebook page for announcements.

If you want more information on any of these farm resolutions, we have resources. Feel free to contact our office and get connected with them.

Here’s to a safe, happy and prosperous new year.

Kris Medic is Purdue Extension Bartholomew County’s educator for agriculture, natural resources and community development. She can be reached at 812-379-1665 or kmedic@purdue.edu.