An Alabama farm safety expert says his advice for spring planting is best expressed in the old classical adage: Hasten slowly.

Actually, what applies in the spring counts all through the year, says Jesse LaPrade, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System farm safety specialist. Instead of responding to issues on the fly, farmers should instead flesh out an agenda — one that not only anticipates all the demands over the next few months, but that also paces out their farm chores — in other words, a plan that better ensures they hasten slowly, he says.

Farm accidents typically occur when farmers are pressed for time, forced to make too many decisions at once — problems often compounded by fatigue.

“If you go back and look at the history of farm-related accidents, you will see the underlying causes almost always involved farmers in a hurry,” he says.

All farmers face crunch times, but the end goal should be a plan that renders those crunch times as soft and predictable as possible.

“As simple as this sounds, farmers need to flesh out an agenda,” LaPrade says. “They still need to make their agenda items for each day and week. They need to plan things ahead and to be flexible too, especially given the prevailing weather patterns this year, which have been more erratic than previous years.”

As LaPrade reminds farmers season after season, the biggest wildcard often centers around the farm accessory that is considered the most useful: the tractor, which is associated with more fatalities than any other piece of equipment.

More than a dozen accidents have centered around tractors that won’t crank.

“When the switch key doesn’t work, farmers know good and well they can short the starter connection, which is often what they resort to instead of installing another switch.”

The result is sometimes catastrophic.

“They typically park them in gear so they won’t roll off, which means they often don’t have a chance to break clear when the tractor cranks,” LaPrade says.