Every year, as the weather warms and the soil dries, preparations begin in earnest for another season, and the rush begins for agricultural producers.
This part of the country is one of the most diverse agricultural regions in Canada, with a number of high-value crops grown here where the stakes are particularly high. From potatoes and sugar beets to the popular Taber corn crops, southern Alberta is an area known for a high level of productivity, diversification and creativity.
And as seeding nears for the 2014 season, farmers have a lot to think about. With market factors to weigh, weather to monitor, and last-second crop choices to make, there is certainly no shortage of things to think about.
With that in mind, safety might not exactly be on the minds of producers about to enter an extremely busy stretch.
But this is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, a time every year where the focus is placed on reminding everyone associated with the industry to act in a safe and responsible manner.
The dangers on the farm are many, whether it is a small farm or a larger, corporate operation. Farms feature large machinery, animals which often have minds of their own, and often require employees to regularly handle various types of chemicals.
Working on the farm, in those respects, is different from a lot of occupations, and steps need to be taken to ensure tasks are carried out safely.
Farming is also unique in terms of the demands placed on workers. It is not uncommon for those working on the land to put in extremely long days, as timing is critical in terms of getting the crop into the ground at the right time, and, late in the season, getting the harvest off.
Delays can often mean huge losses, as the dramatic shifts in the weather, which southern Alberta is known for, can be the difference between a banner harvest and a seriously-downgraded crop. The same can be said during spring seeding, as optimal weather conditions must be taken advantage of to ensure crops get the right head start heading into the growing season.
That said, farmers and their employees must be mindful of the dangers they face each and every day, and carry out their tasks as safely as possible. On-farm deaths still take place, and, due to the nature of the business, life-altering injuries have the potential to change the lives of farm workers forever.
As Canadian Agricultural Week is upon us, it is an opportunity for everyone on local farms to take a moment to ensure safety protocols are being followed, enough time is designated to complete tasks and plans are in place in case something does go wrong.
Agriculture is a key economic driver for southern Alberta, and is the foundation for which this part of the country was built. Many technological advances have made farming much different than it was back then but even now, a focus on safety and getting the job done the right way is needed.
Many farmers have taken progressive steps towards this goal, and the industry in general does not get the credit it deserves for changes which have made working on the farm much more safe. The hope is those steps can be built upon even further, and on-farm injuries and deaths can be reduced even further.