Safety, sleep still important when getting harvest in

Fmn lead safety feature 1217
By Joshua Schuetz

Harvest is coming ‘round the bend and with it, long days, weather worries, grueling work and hopes for a good crop, despite the drought. Unfortunately, safety can sometimes get lost in the mix, as farmers scramble to get the crops harvested before the cold sets in.

Kirsten Lorenz, assistant ambulance director with the city of Jackson, said a lack of sleep is a major driver of farming accidents during harvest time, as farmers extend their working days to as many as 18 hours per day.

“Getting enough sleep is extremely important,” Lorenz said. “You’re doing a lot of tasks that can be monotonous and it’s easy to lose your concentration.”

Jackson Ambulance Service Director Chris Burban agreed, noting exhausted farmers can end up falling asleep while on the combine and struggle to maintain concentration when doing other tasks.

“People can drive a combine into a ditch easily and I’ve seen combine rollovers where people fell asleep at the wheel, just like you’d do with a car,” Burban said. “You also need to make sure the machines are off when you’re doing maintenance work — just those little extra steps that can keep you safe when you’re doing something.”

Common accidents include rollovers, car crashes, electrocutions, suffocation injuries from falling into a grain bin, injuries related to maintenance and falling injuries.
In most cases, Lorenz and Burban said, common sense — and following recommended safety protocols — can make all the difference.

“People think, ‘I’ve been doing this for 20, 30 or 40 years, so nothing’s going to happen to me,’” Burban said.
Both have seen or heard of fatalities related to farming accidents, most of them sustained during harvest time.

“We see injuries where people get sucked into a corn bin,” Burban said. “I’ve been to a rollover incident where the fellow was knocked around in his cab too much and didn’t make it.”

Lorenz said safety training, available from regional agriculture organizations, can help farmers brush up on best practices and avoid tragic accidents.

“There’s a lot of grain bin safety training available in the area and the biggest thing is realizing that it can happen,” Lorenz said. “Especially if you have kids, you don’t want to have bins of grain sitting around in the yard.”

Kids bring more safety concerns to the farm, Lorenz said, especially when they’re helping with the harvest or playing in the area. Proper training and supervision are needed whenever a child helps out on the farm. A major risk is kids getting into farming equipment or getting in the way of operations.

“The big thing is to talk to your kids and tell them when the farming is going on, they need to be careful and also making sure that you have someone to watch them when you’re farming,” Burban said.

Burban also wants to remind the general public to be patient and careful on the roads, as farmers move their equipment off and on public roadways during harvests.

“The most common injuries I saw during harvest were car crashes where a car crashed into farming equipment, and that was all throughout my 16 years in law enforcement,” Burban said. “Be aware that these vehicles are on the road and be careful.”

If the shoe doesn’t fit, call a farrier

Minnesota is home to around 40,000 horses according to 2015 data gathered by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. With all of those horses putting on countless miles in pastures, along back roads and on horse trails, just like their human counter parts, horses need to trade in their worn out shoes for a new pair once in awhile.
         He’s not going door to door selling shoes to horses, but Jesse Kettner of Liberty Horseshoeing LLC near Springfield is keeping busy hoofing around within a 100-mile radius of his farm, shoeing and trimming horses as well as ponies, donkeys and a couple other small hooved animals.
         With only 81 farriers listed on the Minnesota Horsemen’s Directory website, and only three in Southwest Minnesota including Kettner, he has found that farrier work is a full-time job.
         “Farrier work is full time for me and it kind of supports my other habits like farming,” Kettner said. “ Farming is not like it was 100 years ago when you farmed that’s all you did. Everybody now has a day job while trying to make a living at farming on the side.”
         Kettner said that after watching how easy it was for his own farrier working on his horses, he thought that perhaps he could learn how to do it as well for himself. At the time, he was looking for something else to do outside of farming and the job he was working at, so he went online and found the Minnesota School of Horseshoeing in Ramsey. Kettner attended the school in 2017 for a 24-week program, and halfway through the program he was able to start his business. He started off slower, taking 10-12 horses a week. Eventually, he started doing that many in a day.
         Now on a yearly basis, Liberty Horsehoeing sees its fair share of those 40,000 four legged clients.
         “I have roughly 300-350 horses that I take care of, and they are on an eight-week schedule,” Kettner said. “I see them five or six times a year, so I have roughly 2,000 farrier appointments a year.”
         Having so many clients is great for business, but Kettner said the difficulty in his work is primarily keeping everyone on a schedule.
         “One of the more challenging parts is the scheduling,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m not taking any new clients because I try to keep them on schedules. It’s sometimes like herding cats, life happens, people have things going on too and all but I’m trying to keep people on an eight-week schedule.”
         Regular maintenance is on a short list of suggestions that Kettner has for horse owners, as the hooves continues to grow like fingernails on a human.
         “I try to convey to owners that they need to do their horses feet on a schedule,” he said. “It’s kind of what’s best for them and not to wait until they look bad and really need it.”
         Kettner also said that owners should try to clean their horses hooves at least once a week and check them to see if anything looks abnormal. He suggests keeping them out of deep mud or manure. You can pick up a hoof pick or in a pinch use a screwdriver to clean the debris out of the foot. If your horse shows signs of tenderness when you’re cleaning their hooves, Kettner said to talk to your vet or farrier. Another benefit to cleaning their feet weekly is the positive reinforcement and conditioning that helps to keep the horse comfortable with having its feet picked up.
         Finally, Kettner said that although its common, owners should try not to kill their horses with kindness through sweet treats. The American Farriers Journal website advises that too much sugar can lead to hoof issues like founder, a condition where the hoof’s bone starts to tear away from the hoof, which allows for the pointy bone of the hoof to cut down into the hoof when the horse walks. Kettner said he has seen some hoof health issues in the animals he works with.
         “I would say maybe five or ten percent have founder,” he said. “Then there are issues like laminitis. Sometimes when they eat a lot of sugar or sugary supplements and grass it can inflame the connective tissue in the hoof and that can lead to the bone rotating which is actually founder.”
         Kettner, who grew up on a farm with a variety of livestock, said that he likes his work as a farrier because it allows him to do what he enjoys, being outside and working with animals.
         “I grew up on a farm and enjoyed doing outside work with animals and what not, so it isn’t outside of my element,” he said.


Horses a longtime family passion for Dvoraks

Sisters Josie and Jessica Dvorak have been working with horses almost as long as they’ve been walking.
Although they’re just 13 and 12 respectively, both girls are old pros at what they do, having multiple horsemanship awards under their belts and continuing to take lessons to improve the craft to which they’ve dedicated so much time.
“Horses have their own personalities, and you can sometimes tell what they’re thinking, which is something I really like about them,” Jessica Dvorak said.
Her sister agreed.
“I like how their attitudes and personalities can be different when you put more time in working with them,” Josie said. “You can see how much they change.”
The two are both members of the Jackson Saddle Club and they participate in numerous horse shows and rodeo events throughout the year. Josie Dvorak has shown at the Jackson County Fair and won awards in South Dakota horse shows.
“In 2018, I won the all-around high point at the Jackson County Fair,” she said.
Jessica Dvorak showed one of her horses, “Herman,” for the first time at the Jackson County Fair last year and came away with a great showing.
“Last year was my first year showing ‘Herman’ at the fair and I won the high-point all-around and I was pretty proud of that,” she said.
Their dad, Justin Dvorak, is mighty proud of them too, as he’s been raising horses ever since he graduated from high school and has worked to pass on that knowledge to his daughters.
The Dvorak family business even got in on sponsorships to help boost horsemanship locally, not just for the girls’ benefit, but for everyone involved in 4-H horse projects in Jackson County.
“When the girls got active, we realized that there wasn’t a buckle prize for horse events so three years ago, my family business started sponsoring a high-point buckle prize for the kids at the Jackson County Fair,” Justin Dvorak said.
Justin Dvorak got involved with horsemanship once he purchased his own acreage outside of Jackson.
“When we first came, acreages were in short supply, so we had to live in town,” he said. “When I graduated high school, I bought my own farm and started there.”
This year, the girls showed some of their horses in different categories at the fair, which took place this past week in Jackson. Both girls enjoy barrels and games categories, but Jessica Dvorak also competes in pleasure riding.


Edgerton acquires land to protect water supply

In April, the city of Edgerton purchased a 37.2-acre property at 271 160th Avenue northwest of the city within its drinking water supply management area.
“Our main concern was that it stay protected because it’s immediately adjacent to our well,” said Edgerton Water Supervisor Doug Brands.
He said the city’s well is located about 10 feet from the property line on the southeast corner of the property. The recently purchased land has been part of Edgerton’s wellhead protection efforts since 1991. Previously, the city had received Minnesota Department of Health grants to supplement Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to the landowner to protect the water supply. Brands said the CRP ended a few years ago and the city continued to pay the owner not to farm the land.
Brands’ aunt Carol Brands had owned the land, but no longer lives in the area and wanted to sell it. Brands said he approached her about selling it to the city.
“If someone else bought the property they could plant row crops or do whatever they wanted with it,” said City Clerk/Treasurer/EDA Director Joel Farrington.
There’s also a pond on the property that Brands said is closely connected with the city’s well and if the pond was contaminated, it could affect the city’s drinking water too. Brands said the only way for the city to really control what happens on the land and protect its water supply was to own the land.
The city received a $350,000 Clean Water Fund wellhead protection partner grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to help pay the $360,000 purchase price of the property. The grant covered 90 percent of related costs and the city had to provide a 10 percent match. Brands said the city’s cost will include around $35,000 to clear the land.
He said the property consists mostly of the farm site, pond and hay fields. He said the house was sold and was removed from the property the weekend of July 10 and 11. Work then began to remove the outbuildings.
Once the land is flat and clear of structures, Brands said the city must develop a conservation plan to protect the drinking water supply. He said plans could include grazing on the land or growing a crop such as Kernza, a perennial intermediate wheatgrass developed jointly by the Land Institute in Kansas and the University of Minnesota.
“It’s kind of a nitrate eater because the roots of Kernza go several feet into the ground,” Farrington said.
The city of Edgerton has grown Kernza on 40 acres of land that it rents from an adjacent landowner for a few years. Brands said it seems to be working out well, but the crop is difficult to sell because it’s relatively new and the market is not yet developed. He said it’s used mostly for animal food now.
Whether Kernza is grown on the newly acquired land in the future, Brands said, will depend on the market for the crop, the amount of labor it requires and it’s impact on the drinking water. Essentially, it’s a matter of what the crop requires from the city and what its benefits are to the city.
“There’s a lot in the air as far as the Kernza crop goes,” Brands said.
For now, once the 37.2 acres is cleared, Brands said it will probably be rented out for grazing.

Dickinson County Clean Water Alliance: Conserving across states

John Wills wears a lot of hats.
A Republican state representative in Iowa, a former soldier and conservation official with several regional organizations, he’s had a lot of experiences throughout his life.
Wills started working in conservation back in 1993 and returned to it after his stint in the military and now uses his expertise in conservation policy to benefit his district in the Iowa statehouse.
“I’m employed by the Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District,” he said. “I first ran for office in 2014.”
Since 2008, he’s been the coordinator of the Dickinson County Clear Water Alliance, which works on several watersheds throughout northern Iowa and southwest Minnesota.
“It was formed with the idea of finding good projects in the Iowa great lakes, Little Swan Lake and Silver Lake Watersheds,” Wills said.
The organization is funded by grants and uses grants to fund various projects throughout the area.
“It’s a competitive grant system,” Wills said.
Recently, the alliance has pledged $75,000 in grant money to help Minnesota’s Jackson County out with a massive silt leak in Loon Lake, which has attracted local and regional attention. Loon Lake filters into the Iowa Great Lakes.
“I’ve worked with the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District and water quality folks up there,” Wills said. “There’s a sediment plume in Loon Lake on the mouth of a drainage ditch, so anything we can do to prevent that from getting worse, we’ll do.”
Sediment in general has been an issue for regional lakes, Wills said, especially given their popularity as recreational spots. That means the cross-state and cross-county work of organizations like the Dickinson County Clean Water Alliance are more essential than ever.
“The Iowa Great Lakes and Loon Lake are in trouble because of sediment and phosphorous especially and this project will help keep 36 pounds of phosphorous from getting into Loon Lake,” Wills said. “What we’re doing with the grants is really a mutually beneficial thing, because if Loon Lake has cleaner water, our lakes will be cleaner too.”
Wills said it’s important for citizens, especially those living in a watershed area, to be aware of their effect on the environment around them and get involved with conservation issues and organizations locally.
“Anybody inside a watershed is impacting that watershed, whatever they’re doing,” he said. “Everyone has a role in keeping our watersheds clean.”
Local groups and boards are especially important in that effort, he said.
“You can join a watershed protection group or conservation group that has the goal of protecting the water or doing things like rain gardens,” Wills said. “Everyone can do something.”

Manure from three South Dakota dairies will be converted into natural gas

A San Fransisco-based company is working with three South Dakota dairies on a project that will convert manure from cows into renewable natural gas.
“It’s pretty cool what we’re up to,” said Brightmark Founder and CEO Bob Powell. “We’re really able to help a lot of our farming communities because the projects that we partner with them on actually provide additional farm economics in addition to contributing to a sustainable future. They’re definitely win-win types of projects.”
The Athena Project is located on Boadwine Farms, Pioneer Dairy and Mooody County Dairy in Minnehaha County. Powell said the project is Brightmark’s first in South Dakota and the first project by anyone in the state that will convert manure to natural gas.
Lynn Boadwine, managing partner and majority owner of the dairies, said Brightmark approached him about the project in 2019. He said he was interested in it due to a movement by the dairy industry, the marketplace, and consumers toward net zero carbon emissions, and it’s the “right thing to do.”
“I think you’ll see a lot more of it,” Boadwine said.
Powell said the three farms have over 12,800 cows that produce around 55 million gallons of manure each year. That manure will be collected in anaerobic digesters Brightmark is building and will own and operate on land that it’s leasing at the dairies. Anaerobic digestion is a process through which bacteria break down organic matter such as animal manure. Powell said it takes about three weeks in a digester for the manure to be processed into methane gas.
That gas will then be cleaned with equipment that Brightmark is installing at the dairies, pressurized and put into underground pipelines. Powell said Brightmark is “virtually finished” acquiring right of way access from land owners to bury its pipelines on their property.
Powell said the company uses “super hard” plastic pipes buried around five to seven feet deep across farmland, but that can vary based on the frost line and other circumstances. He said there is “no effect at all on the ability to farm” the land other than when the trenches are being dug and the pipelines are being put in.
The pipelines from the three dairies will connect to the Northern Natural Gas interstate pipeline in Baltic. Powell said the Athena project will generate around 217,000 metric million British thermal units a year, which is enough energy to power almost 6,000 homes for a year.
“If we weren’t doing what we’re doing on those three farms, as we complete them later this year, the methane gas would actually be going up in the air and methane gas, from a greenhouse gas perspective, is 84 times more contaminating over a 20-year period than CO2, for example,” Powell said. “We’re doing a real environmental good and improving the farm economics, so that’s why I say it’s a real win-win.”
Powell said it’s like the company is renting the manure because if pays the dairies for the manure, but the dairies get the solids back after the digestion process. Boadwine said that manure will be applied to cropland as fertilizer as usual.
“We don’t lose the fertilizer value,” he said.
Boadwine said other benefits of the project are that the manure is sterilized and there is less odor from its storage, and it will reduce the need for fossil fuels through the production of natural gas.
“Whatever we can do to reduce our environmental impact, I think it’s good,” he said.
Powell said construction of the Athena Project started last year and the project is expected to be completed by mid-December.
Boadwine said he couldn’t have taken on such a project without Brightmark. Powell said Brightmark’s projects receive financial support from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standards program. Because of that, he said, the company must be able to show that theoretically the gas could get to California.
“If you’re a farmer in South Dakota, like one of our projects here, you’re benefiting from a program that the state of California set up,” Powell said.
Brightmark started in 2016. In addition to capturing natural gas from manure, it also turns old plastic items into materials to make new plastic. By the end of this year, Powell said, the company will have about 36 projects across the U.S., including some on the west coast, east coast and in the upper Midwest.
“We’re now the largest company in the dairy removal of natural gas in the U.S.,” Powell said. “We do what we do well, we let the farmers do what they do well and there’s an economic benefit for the farms, and we found that to be pretty powerful.”