BRIDGEWATER — More than 100 farmers and producers gathered at Turner Ashby High School to attend the 68th annual Rockingham County Farm Bureau membership meeting Thursday where they listened to live music, ate local barbecue and learned how to prevent agriculture-related injuries.
Guest speaker Dr. Amy Johnson is a nurse practitioner with Centra Medical Group in Bedford County and president of the Bedford County Farm Bureau.
Johnson started out like many kids growing up in agriculture — participating in 4-H and growing up with alongside families attending Thursday’s meeting.
Her interest in focusing on agricultural injuries and preventive health care and wellness started when she was dispatched to help a farmer pinned under a tire. She had graduated with the farmer six weeks prior from Virginia Tech.
Her friend had been trapped for more than six hours and once the tire was removed, he went into cardiac arrest and died. From that moment on, she devoted her studies to bringing awareness to farm safety.
During her presentation on Thursday, Johnson started by listing the different things farm safety encompasses, such as chemicals, machines and animals.
The biggest safety tips surrounded eye and ear protection.
“Eyes can be damaged from flying debris, dust, chemicals and sun and light damage,” Johnson said. “Once your eyes are damaged, they don’t repair themselves.”
Johnson told attendees to always wear safety glasses or sunglasses.
A second word of advice was to always have ear protection to prevent hearing loss.
“By the age of 50, 50% of hearing is lost,” Johnson said. “What men tend to lose first is high pitch noises, like a woman’s voice or a child’s voice. By wearing hearing protection, such as ear plugs, you can prevent hearing loss.”
While hearing and eye protection scratched the interior of ways to prevent injury, protecting your skin from sun exposure hit the exterior of safety issues.
“Your nose, neck, head and ears are the most common areas for skin cancer,” Johnson said. “Always put on sunscreen and be aware of plants and insects that could also harm you.”
Johnson also stressed the importance of being geographically aware of where farmers are at any given point and to know where access points are located to assist emergency personnel reaching those in need. She also said that farmers should never enter a silo.
“Once you are trapped by the knees [in a silo], you can not get out,” Johnson said. “You should never be alone and should be tied to a harness with three people assisting you.”
Lastly, Johnson discussed mental health with farmers and the different variables that could cause a farmer stress.
“It is no surprise that farming is very stressful,” Johnson said. “Stressors can include the weather, government regulations, injuries, finances, crop cycle and transiting.”
Johnson told attendees to seek professional help if needed and to not bottle emotions in.
“The farming community is a resilient community,” Johnson said. “We farm because it is in our blood, in our bones and it is what we love.”
Other items discussed during the meeting included the election for the Board of Directors and the adoption of several resolutions.
In a unanimous vote, incumbents Roy Dean, Lareth May and Bob Threewitts were elected for Directors at Large, Steve Craun was appointed to serve as the Ashby District Director, Connie Liskey was elected to serve as the Central District Director, Dennis Stoneburner was elected to the Linville District Director, Doug Hughes was appointed to serve as the Plains District Director, Brian Turner was elected to serve the remaining one-year term to replace Matt Lohr’s term for Plains District Director, David Walker II will serve as the Stonewall District Director, Kate Dudley will serve on the Women’s Committee and Jesse and Paula Martin will serve the Young Farmers.
Farm Bureau members also voted to adopt resolutions including: The United States Department of Agriculture should monitor the production, processing and labeling of cultured proteins; the USDA and Food and Drug Administration should work jointly to inspect all non-meat products; encourage more realistic, simplified and flexible specifications for Best Management Practice projects that benefit the waters of Virginia, all resolutions from 2018 to remain in effect for 2019 and oppose the expansion of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.
After an evening filled with door prizes and discussion, members adjourned the annual meeting to return in 2020.