Resource development, urban sprawl and new acreages has brought new people to farm country, and also new risks
Personal safety on the farm is something that is becoming more and more of an issue for many of our farmers. Farms are increasingly surrounded by acreages, large lots and growing urban sprawl.
We have to learn to get along with our new rural neighbours who come from the city. They don’t know that farms are noisy, smelly and that animals have outdoor sex. They don’t understand that machines need to run during “off hours” and that dirt roads get dusty when farmers are moving into different fields during the season.
We can be good neighbors with our non-farming newcomers. And most of us are. We clear their driveways, pull them out of ditches, loan them our generators when the power is out and wave when they drive by the yard.
But with more expensive equipment, more detachable technology and a larger population of newcomers, farmers are facing a whole new set of challenges to our personal safety.
Open door policies
It used to be that “the door is always open” was a pretty safe policy in farm country. Someone could use the truck (bringing it back fuelled up), the tractor if they were stuck or come inside the house, shop or barn to borrow a tool or get a glass of water.
For the most part, we knew our neighbours and they knew us. We knew who had an unfriendly dog or a loud donkey. We also knew who was always there to help. We knew who went to bed early and who had the lights on well into the night. It was a very ad hoc safety system but it worked. If something was even a little bit “off” people knew.
We don’t have that luxury in many parts of farm country any more. We don’t know our neighbours. There has been an increase in home invasions, robberies and thefts. Our personal safety on the farm has a new added human element. Instead of just worrying about dehydration during haying or about equipment injuries we now have to consider the safety of our families, animals and property.
Volunteer and community driven organizations like Rural Crime Watch and C.O.P.S. do wonderful work, but we still need to look to our own farms and determine what we need for personal safety and security. It might mean more motion sensor lights, a guard dog on night patrol, gates, better doors and even locks, storage of easily moved items like GPS units and iPads. Keeping chemicals and tools stored behind locked doors is also important.
It goes against our nature. We recently moved from an area which was facing some serious rural crime challenges. I can assure you that it is not unique and it is a growing challenge.
We will, as farmers, always want to help our neighbours, but we have to be sure our farms are secure from threats. Human threats, not just weather, markets, breakdowns or lost time. Farm safety is becoming about keeping farmers safe from off-farm dangers as well as those we find close to home.
What can you do?
- The first thing is to not be ruled by fear. Just as our urban friends have to know what is going on in their neighbourhoods, we do as well.
- Know what is your “new normal” for traffic. Pay attention to any unusual vehicles making stops, staying in one place for a long period of time, or people driving in the yard and asking for directions that don’t make sense
- Write down these things as you notice them, take times and license plates if you can.
- Ask someone from your local police service to come and do a security assessment on your farm.
- Install locks where you need to, review windows and access points to ensure they are secure.
- Investments in things like motion sensor lights, cameras, dogs, fences and gates as well as making friends with new neighbors will go a long way to making your farm safer.
Some farms have had home invasions, which are terrifying. Others have had break-ins while they were away.
If you are ever concerned about your safety, or are threatened, contact your local police immediately, make a report and speak to an officer. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone to come and check your farm if you are uncomfortable. Ask for advice on farm security.
Be proactive and keep on farming! †