There is nothing quite like a harvest moon.
It is made especially memorable when watched rising while having a tailgate supper, or when moving into the next pass without interruption of light or landscape. It is these moments we treasure at harvest time.
Everyone on the team should have a moment to stop and enjoy the harvest moon. It may be to reflect on the day, on a relationship, on one who has been lost or on the bounty of the harvest. Taking time to stop and think — even for just 10 minutes — allows for our minds to clear and for our bodies to recalibrate.
Walking away from the combine or truck for a minute gets our blood moving and carries oxygen to the brain. This is not precious harvest time lost, it is time captured. And in the prevention of injury or death, it could be a lifetime gained.
Every year, at least twice a year, I write about farm safety. I have shared stories of my own bad decisions and there are more in the memory bank. It is the fear that I felt watching Dad trapped under a piece of equipment, or my baby girl wander into a pen of 500 head of cattle, or my brother jackknifing down a hill or my own exasperation at another shear pin gone and how that held up the whole lot. It could be as complicated as a computer glitch on the combine to as simple as getting stuck — but it all creates anxiety and if you are an employee, perhaps it also creates fear.
Making harvest as inviting as the harvest moon takes some planning.
To start with, communicate — don’t isolate.
Communicate the plan to the whole team including your support and cooking crew. Go over scenarios if plans should change or one unit breaks down. Create a space that is welcoming and safe to work in by reviewing the goals of the day and the safety measures to get there. It is just as frustrating to the cooking crew to go into a field to find it finished and no communication on the next place as it is for a young operator to break down and have no idea how to handle the situation when they have not been given support or tools. And if it is your farm and these folks are working for you, be sure they are insured against injury.
Review the protocols for the harvest, for breakdowns, delays, servicing, end-of-day cleanup, check-in, expected interruptions or breaks in the day, injuries and meals. Do this each and every day.
Long hours away from the house or office where the water tap is easily accessed makes for dehydrated workers. A large jug of fresh and clean water should be part of the first aid kit in each and every piece of equipment. And if there are other health concerns, such as diabetes, then extra nutrition on board is absolutely essential. There should also be handy wipes, toilet paper, a phone charger, tools, paper towels or rags, a fire extinguisher and a list of contacts including equipment service providers.
Keep the tank full.
Not only the fuel tank but the food tank, the support tank and the discussion tank. Openly remind folks of the hours being logged and ensure there is nutrition ready for them. They can’t just jog down to the local café. Nutritional bars or full meal drinks could be part of the morning meeting, allowing for men and women to take what it is that they need. Like the checklist on the equipment, ensure that every person is working and functioning to full capacity.
The old view of the ‘hired man’ died decades ago. You are forming a team and in many cases your farm is nurturing a community. Many of your primary owners, operators and managers will be women who may have different needs and it is up to you to ensure those needs are met. Healthy, happy, refreshed and engaged workers bring in a safe harvest. Tired, anxious and hungry help cannot.
Creating a nurturing environment for men and women fosters respect and invites interest in what they do and, more importantly, in what you do. It lays the foundation for a greater engagement in moving up in the farm and allows for dialogue that is super valuable.
So if you see the crew stopped and just walking to the crest of the hill to fully embrace the harvest moon, smile — and go with them and share that moment of awe.
If you have never stopped to do this before, do it this year.
The moon is there to remind us that we made it through today and that it will bring another tomorrow. That huge orb unites us with farmers and farm workers around the world who honour the land and her people caring for the safety of the very hands that feed us.