Farming remains a big industry in Bucks County, but with increased development and higher volumes of traffic, roadways could become a scary place.With many smaller farms in the county, farmers often need to travel for a short time on a public road to get from one parcel to the next, and lack of lights and four-ways on farm equipment, and drivers going too fast could spell disaster.
In late April, the Bucks County Farm Bureau strived to do something about the problem, aiming to ensure everyone's safety during "Rural Roads Safety Week."
The week was held April 21 to 28, as a way to make drivers aware that they should remain alert for slow-moving farm equipment.
"We want to bring awareness to the traffic on the roads," said Don Buckman, a board member of the Farm Bureau and a farmer in Bedminster Township.
With the help of some businesses, like Tractor Supply Company on Route 309, the Bucks County Farm Bureau reached out to its 488 members, offering them tools and information needed to be safe on the roadway.
The Supply Tractor Company gave out free slow moving vehicle signs to members, and members were also sent coupons for orange triangle signs.
According to the Bucks County Farm Bureau, it's a necessity for some farmers to drive on public roads, as they make their way to tend from one field to another, sometimes miles apart.
"They try to pull over when they can," Buckman said of farmers. "Usually they are not going a far distance between fields."
But other drivers on the road, he said must be more patient.
"If you must pass make sure it's a safe spot," he said. "And slow down."
The week's awareness went both ways, giving farmers the tools needed to stay safe on the roads and aiming to make drivers aware of the equipment on the road and the need to be safe.
"You don't think of it as much in areas like this, because there aren't as many farmers" said Jimmy Harris, a Perkasie resident and farmer. "But there are more people on the road and so more people are being slowed down. It's a matter of being patient."
Older farm equipment like tractors and trucks pulling wagons don't have lights, four-ways or hazard lights, Harris said, and they are often moving much slower than the flow of traffic.
The Farm Bureau is trying to spread awareness to other drivers on the road, asking them to slow down when approaching farm equipment, and use caution when passing. According to the Farm Bureau, drivers should slow to 20 mph when they come behind a farm vehicle, and honk their horn before passing, first making sure that there are no curves or hills ahead obstructing their view.
The orange triangle signs are meant to make others aware a farm vehicle is up ahead, and when approaching the slow moving vehicle signs, the bureau cautions other drivers to slow down immediately.
"The more traffic there is, the more people need to be aware of what's going on," Buckman said. "There are still farms in the county. It's not like it's going away.
Both Buckman and Harris are part of the Farm Bureau's young farmers and ranchers program for farmers in the area between the ages of 18 and 35. The program helps young farmers out by offering scholarships and grant money to get started. The Farm Bureau offers additional benefits and assistance to its members, like discounted insurance, Buckman said. Members can be either farmers or non-farmers - people who are interested in agriculture or whose family benefits from agriculture.
"It's good to be involved in the Farm Bureau," Harris said.
Toni Becker is the former editor of The Free Press, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org