Clemson Agricultural Safety

Safety Spotlight – December 2021

Adam J. Kantrovich

Hometown: Des Plaines, IL

Position: Extension Specialist – Agribusiness, Director of Clemson Extension Tax School, Asst. Director of the Clemson Cooperative Extension Agribusiness Team

I work with farmers, landowners, the timber industry, and others within the agricultural industry specializing in farm financial management, ag labor policy issues, farm succession, transition, and estate planning; Affordable Care Act compliance, and Farm Stress and Mental Health.

What has been your level of involvement in the Clemson University Ag Safety program?
It has been limited up to this point. But have begun working with Farm Stress and Mental Health area when I was still with Michigan State University Extension, which for me is a part of the larger Ag Safety area and should be thought of as such.

How important is it for farmers and other people in agriculture be safe?
This is an extremely important a part of farm life and living in a rural community. But we need to expand on the idea that Ag or Farm Safety is only a prevention of physical, physiological injury or death, but needs to include the mental health of our farmers, farm families, landowners, and others.

How often do you run across the topic of agricultural safety in your position?
This is a regular issue, every time I step onto a farm property, because of what I typically do, I immediately begin to assess my surroundings about the farmstead, reviewing the facilities, the livestock, etc. There are many issues on a farm that can easily cause injury. Along with the normal day-to-day activities of farming, comes a normal level of stress, but unfortunately for the past 5 or 6 years there has been a number of other variables that has affected many farmers that has increased the stress level which has begun to affect many mentally.

What do you think the biggest concern is regarding agricultural safety?
Beyond the normal working around machinery and equipment, grain facilities, and livestock, one of the largest issues is the mental health and wellbeing of farmers, farm families and landowners. Under prolong high stress times, stress can begin to have a negative effect on a person’s body physically and physiologically. Making an individual more susceptible to becoming ill through a lowered immune response system, cardiac issues, and more susceptible to making errors when working around machinery and or livestock causing injury or death due to their minds being taken up by thinking about their financial situation or other issues that might be present.

How can/are SC Agriwellness and CU Ag Safety working together to improve in this area?
First and foremost, by raising awareness about the situation. Second, by educating everyone that we can that being under stress can cause many other issues in one’s life on the farm and that it is okay to seek assistance from a professional Mental Health Professional. By simply talking to someone about what is going on, what a farmer may be going through and thinking about is by itself helpful for many. Third, providing information about the resources available through the SC Agriwellness program for those in South Carolina Agriculture.

Why is safety necessary? You share any personal experiences if you are willing?
Farming is an extremely satisfying profession and lifestyle, but it does come with its many risks, some of which we can control, and many others that we cannot. But when things begin to turn negative due to crops destroyed, low prices or the higher cost of inputs and money begins to get tight, we begin to become stressed and begin to think about possible solutions which unfortunately may lead to marriage problems, substance abuse, and or thoughts of taking one’s life. I have seen the impacts to a farm family due to suicide within the family. In many cases this creates additional issues for the farm and farm family and does not necessarily resolve the underlying issues that created the stress in the first place.

What do you think is the best way to teach agricultural safety?
Teach by doing and lead by example.

Describe the impacts that a safety intervention can have on children.
Prevention of losing a limb, a life, the possibility of being able to pass the farm to the next generation.

What is the biggest way to leave an impression the agricultural community?
Having a personal connection and building trust one person at a time.

What can be done to spread awareness about safety issues?
Never stop teaching and providing little educational “nuggets” whenever someone can.

Do you have any advice for the agricultural sector in this time of uncertainty?
There is nothing wrong asking for help. Contact someone for assistance, whether that be a family member, a neighbor, an Extension agent or staff member or anyone else that can provide assistance. Whether they are the one that can provide the assistance needed or help you in reaching the resource that you need.

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