Agriculture and a Culture of Safety: Mapping Spheres of Influence

Jessica Perkins
Jessica Perkins
State University of New York
at Buffalo

Jessica ME Perkins MPH, Casper G Bendixsen PhD
National Farm Medicine Center

Research area: Agriculture Health and Safety, Anthropology 

Background: Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupational sectors, with high rates of injury/illness and death. Agricultural health and safety professionals have had limited success in delivering their programs and messages to farmers. However, other individuals have earned farmers’ trust and influence their decision-making. This pilot project will design and use a pile sort instrument, an ethnographic research method that gathers both qualitative and quantitative data, to investigate and describe the relationship between agricultural bankers and dairy farmers in central Wisconsin.

Methods: Agricultural bankers and dairy farmers participated in one-hour interviews where questions were asked using a pile sort that consisted of 32 cards. Each card had an individual/institution written on it, with whom farmers and bankers interact. The same set of cards was used for both groups with the questions being complementary. Demographic questions were asked to characterize their dairy/portfolio. Lead-in questions were used to assess participants’ perspectives on farm safety as part of a successful business plan. Participants sorted cards based on a modified 5-point Likert scale to assess the relationship with the farmer, their knowledge of farm safety, and the amount of trust afforded to them by the farmer.

Results: Preliminary ethnographic evidence shows dairy farmers and agricultural bankers tend to agree that spouses, immediate family, and herdsmen are on-farm trusted advisors in farm safety. Off-farm examples were also agreed upon: agricultural health and safety professionals and veterinarians. Moreover, both agree that these individuals are trusted enough to make immediate changes based on their recommendations.

Conclusions: Both agricultural bankers and dairy farmers believe farm safety is important in the financial success of a dairy farm. There is potential for agricultural health and safety experts to utilize these individuals to help design and implement farm safety programs, build rapport, and incentivize safety through other important institutions.