The news came in last night as I was getting into bed after a long day at work. The evenings are dark quickly now and I had just come in from the farm yard. The few cows that were inside were grand. My Father had let out the cow that had calved on Saturday to the small pasture. I was lamenting the rain and how the summer was already gone.
That all too farmilar whats app ding sounded in my pocket.
‘I just heard there was a farm death.’
Putting on my journalists hat I realized it was too late to assign the story and that I would write up the details myself. I did not feel like doing the task, the night was late and I was tired but it needed to be reported. I talked with my colleague who had given me the tip off.
‘Where did it occur?
‘It happened beside you John,’ my colleague said.
Immediately then I forget the annoyance of the job, or the late hour. Calls were made and the man identified, it had been a neighbour from just a few minutes away outside our village of Ballinalee in County Longford. I knew the man, his grandchildren attend my mothers playschool, his children are part of the parish, my parents had recently sat with him at a wedding, he is, he was a good neighbour.
The death of this man brings the total farm deaths in Ireland this year to 14. 14 lives ended tragically, 14 families torn apart, 14 farms without a farmer.
Death is not picky, it will take whom and what it can. From 2006 -2015 it has claimed the lives of 194 people in agriculture, making ours the most dangerous profession on this island.Guards, soldiers, front line staff are far less likely to die in the line of duty than the farmers of this country.
But how could a job that is rooted in nature, in growing and creating and dare I say life be so shrouded in death. Tractors and machinery are the biggest risks on Irish farms, followed then by livestock.
It is not the man that has changed it is our environment, with increasing technology machinery has grown in size, with the decrease in handling of animals livestock have grown wilder and farms, farms are not a place for children anymore.
My colleague and I spoke today over our lunch about how it need not be this way however. That farming should not be the most dangerous profession on this island. But how? How do we undo so much carnage and damage how do we make Ireland a safer place for the women and men who feed us.
It must start on our farms, with us the farmers. Government campaigns are all well and good, but we must take the step ourselves to ensure our farm is a safer place. A health and safety training course should be a mandatory training for every farming in the country. Yes you may baulk at the idea, but do you know how to administer first aid? Do you know how to put someone in the recovery position?
In the end your farm future is in your hands.
I know we have all taken risks with machinery or done stupid things with machinery. But you know a machinery does not know if it has killed or crushed or maimed a man, it knows nothing of loss or rehab, of funerals or removals, of wakes and the endless litany of handshakes for the man or woman taken too soon.
Farming has changed, it is not that simple life we hear our fathers speak of from their childhood, it is a busy, fast paced world where we must be alert at all times. Children and machinery do not mix, and despite having myself rode on loads of haybales and the sides of tractors and how much i did love it, all it takes is one simple moment, one tragic moment and that little bundle of joy is gone forever.
My neighbour is gone today, perhaps it was yours last week, perhaps it will be you tommorow. We need to tackle the epidemic of farm accidents. It starts with you taking the steps. Identify the dangers on your farms, do some health and safety training and operate machinery with caution. Stop, think, live.
A farm is but a piece of land without the family that run it.
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