Ag News

Ware County Farm Bureau hosts Community Safety Day

by Jay Stone

Posted on Oct 12, 2023 at 21:03 PM

On Sept. 30 at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds in Waycross, Ware County Farm Bureau hosted a free Ag & Community Safety Awareness Day. The event featured approximately 20 exhibitors, including first responders and safety equipment companies, and drew more than 100 visitors.

“Every year we have a tragedy either in Ware County or in an adjoining county during harvest season,” said WCFB President Victor Aldridge. “One is too many, and we just want the people to be aware of what’s going on.”

Much of the focus was on farm safety, but it’s clear many of the messages applicable to farm situations also apply to non-farm scenarios.

Exhibitors addressed mental health, internet safety, handling flammable materials, safety devices for tractors, and public agency activities that may not be common knowledge in the general public.

WCFB Women’s Committee Chairwoman Mary Alice Aldridge arranged a showing of video from former South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, whose father died in a grain bin accident. Noem emphasized the importance of always keeping safety in mind during the course of everyday activities.

“Waycross is a medium-sized city, and I worked in the school system and know how hard the ag pathways work to educate students who live in the county and in the city on how to be safe on ATVs and on golf carts,” Mary Alice said. “We felt like it was needful for that group of people but also, the farmers that we do have, they have not had anything available to them like this, so that they can be exposed to what’s out there.”

The event presented a chance for the public to meet first responders in a non-crisis setting and get an up-close look at cool emergency vehicles, from helicopters to fire trucks, fully tricked-out RVs and police cars.

Ware County Sheriff Carl James and his deputies shared messages on vehicle safety, including paying heed to safety triangles on farm equipment, and safe operation of all-terrain vehicles.

Maggie Santana from Satilla Advocacy Services, a child advocacy and rape crisis center, was on hand to promote safe practices when using the internet, as well as the importance of respecting individual physical boundaries.

Sumter County Farm Bureau President Matt Berry and his wife Alicia talked to visitors about Farm Bureau's Farm State of Mind behavioral health resources and research from Mercer University on farmers’ mental and emotional challenges.

Daniel Stewart of fuel and lubricant company Lewis & Raulerson promoted safet handling of flammable materials and noted a key message for young people in the event they find themselves near spilled fuel.

“Don’t clean up the spill,” Stewart said. “Go get an adult. Using rags might create friction that results in a spark, and the fumes from the fuel will ignite.”

Wesley Mattox of Bennett’s Tractor Service in Waycross showed visitors special air filters designed to keep airborne chemicals from entering tractor cabs during application of crop protection products. The filters are installed in a compartment in the overhead portion of many tractor cabs.

At least two vendors – Coastal Pines Technical College (CPTC) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) – used the opportunity for recruitment. CPTC in Waycross sought students for all its programs, including one to prep for careers in forestry. DNR worked to promote interest in careers as forest rangers.

Of course, some safety themes bear repeating. Georgia State Patrol Troopers Merritt Meeks and Damascus Chambers urged visitors to buckle seat belts while in motor vehicles and not to drink and drive. GSP also had one of its helicopters – the agency has a fleet of 15 choppers statewide – on hand to give locals a chance at a close look. Pilot Sgt. Brad Harris said the aircraft are used in search and rescue for missing people, escapees from custody and providing aerial imaging support in a variety of formats – photo, video, infrared, etc. – in response to natural disasters.

The AirEvac LifeTeam also brought a helicopter to the event, this one a rescue unit for medical emergency evacuation from remote areas. Georgia Farm Bureau members are eligible for discounts on AirEvac LifeTeam enrollment.

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