It might not seem like it now, with fresh snow earlier this month, but agricultural operations will soon be in high gear.
Southern Alberta is a part of the country, and North America for that matter, where some of the most intensive agricultural operations have become established.
We are capable of growing a diverse array of crops, unlike many other regions, as our typically warm, dry and sun-rich environment is very unique.
Our vast irrigation network also gives southern Alberta an advantage, as producers here benefit from the system of canals and pipelines to keep valuable cash crops well hydrated.
But with these natural and man-made advantages also comes challenges.
Large farm operations are the norm here, and each spring brings about pressure to produce high-quality crops and solid yields to meet the demands of local processors and the contract demands of buyers in other markets.
A lot is riding on successful seeding campaigns, which are just on the horizon for many growers, and in some years, the windows are short.
Mother Nature plays a huge role each season, and often times, agricultural workers must put in long hours when conditions are right to optimize their results.
As March 15-21 was Farm Safety Week, now is a good time to remind employers and employees to take a measured approach this spring.
Yes, farming is unlike many other businesses. When farm operations are in high gear, many will work well beyond a standard 9-5 shift. That is a given.
However, there are dangers incorporated in this, as long hours, which often include shift work, wear on everyone, including those on the ground and those managing the day-to-day operations.
Getting enough sleep and rest is key in avoiding mistakes, which can ultimately delay or derail seeding or harvest operations, and keeping everyone safe.
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s farm-safety division recommends the development of a strategy to help workers adjust to ramped-up working conditions, including incorporating physical activities into your day and eating a balanced diet.
Taking short breaks, working with a partner, eating three normal meals per day and leaving boring and tedious tasks to the end of a shift are just some of the recommendations from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development officials.
Often, there is nothing which can be done about the amount of work which needs to get done in the allotted time. Weather conditions are never perfect for every single commodity grown in this area, and each operation will need to operate under tight timelines. That is the nature of the business.
However, efforts can be taken to ensure that work is done in a safe and effective manner, to make sure employers and employees all get home safely each night.