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Late harvest leads to long nights, safety concerns for farmers

TOWN OF ROCK (WKOW) — As winter fast approaches and with more snow on the way, farmers are taking advantage of dry days as often as they can.

Bryce O’Leary, a custom farmer and president of Wisconsin Custom Operators, said it’s been that way since harvesting began.

“It’s been a tough season,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of rain, a lot of cloudy days, a lot of mud.”

For O’Leary that means there’s been far too many days in the past several weeks in which getting any work done was impossible.

“We’ve had a lot of acres where we waited for it to dry out enough so that we could go,” he said. “Then when we could go, we put in some really good days.”

Still, he said he and farmers across the region are behind. The corn he was chopping Tuesday, he said should have been out of the field a month ago.

Though O’Leary said in many of these fields, waiting is the best option.

“It’s muddy. You’re sliding around in the field,” he said. “You gotta be careful and pay attention to what you’re doing.”

He said that’s especially true as the days get shorter and shorter and he’s logging those long hours in the dark.

In these conditions, O’Leary said farmers need to resist the urge to rush.

“When we get stuck,” he said. “Everything stops and we move in slow motion until we get unstuck.”

Rushing, he said, is how accidents happen. All farmers deal with heavy, powerful machinery and O’Leary said getting too close at the wrong time could result in serious injury or far worse.

“The equipment doesn’t know the difference between your finger and a corn stalk,” he said.

To make sure everyone on his staff is safe, O’Leary said he always checks his surroundings to make sure no one is near any of his active machinery. On top of that, he said he always makes sure it’s completely off before he himself opens the door and steps out.

“If you take your time,” he said. “You may be a little slower to get done but you’ll get done.”

Because even when facing weeks of long days, O’Leary said a few more hours in the field is worth ensuring farmers make it out.

“We want to get home same as you do,” he said.

According to the most recent crop progress report, Wisconsin farmers had only four good days for harvesting last week. At this point, the year’s corn harvest is nearly a full month behind schedule.

Kevin Millard

Kevin Millard-Social Media Digital Content Manager for WXOW.

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