Robert Janney, a hay farmer in Floyd County, is like other farmers who need to hit the road with oversized heavy equipment from time to time.
Comes with the job.
Also what comes with the job: the birds.
“It’s no fun being out on a tractor while people flip you a bird because they think you’re in the way,” said Janney, who has taken to getting out on the road at off-peak times, like Sunday mornings, to try to avoid not only the birds, but the dangers of being on the road with his farm equipment, and impatient motorists.
“We’re all trying to make a living, and everybody’s in a hurry, but we need to share the road,” Janney said.
Virginia Farm Bureau is highlighting the fact that, with summer approaching, we’re going to be seeing increased farm-equipment activity on rural roadways.
“To get forage quality in dry hay, you need to get it dried down completely, and quickly,” said Matt Booher, a Virginia Cooperative Extension crop and soil sciences agent in Rockingham County. “That’s the challenge. We tend to get scattered rain this time of year. And as forages mature and put out seed heads, the quality starts to drop pretty quickly. So that also puts you in a rush to get out and mow the fields before they get too mature. It’s a short window of time.”
With the planting season in full swing, motorists are urged to respectfully share the road, said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee.
“Our food systems depend on transportation,” Fisher said. “As farmers are doing their part, motorists should take necessary precautions to ensure everybody reaches their destination safely.”
Janney, who has grown orchard grass fescue for feeder cattle for over 30 years, said heavy equipment didn’t utilize public roadways as frequently when farmland was more contiguous. However, as development and land loss encroach on agricultural activities, motorists should expect to share the road with equipment.
He recalled a fatality in 2018, when a motorcyclist in a no-passing zone struck a farm tractor turning left into a private drive.
Visibility is key. “Slow down. Give space,” Janney said.
“If I have a big baler behind me, I can’t see you,” he said. “If I’m getting ready to make a left turn and you’re impatient and whip out to pass me, we’re going to meet in the road, and it’s going to be a problem.”