During a recent quick review of the morning news related to the rural equipment segment, this headline stood out from the rest, “Rise of ‘Hobby Farms' Means More Growers Get Maimed, Killed.” The article addresses a trend that dealers face every day: The increase in small-scale agriculture means an increase in the number of inexperienced owners operating tractors and other equipment. And, these newcomers are unaware of, or maybe choose to ignore, potential hazards.

Mike Wiles, Rural Lifestyle Dealer columnist, and creator of the Ask Tractor Mike YouTube channel, says that’s the exact reason he began producing videos in the first place. His site recently reached more than 4 million views and tractor safety is one of the most common questions he receives.

The Washington Post article include this statistic for the state of Indiana: Up to a quarter of its 115 farm fatalities over the past 4 years have been on small operations that include so-called hobby or lifestyle farms, which are often run by people who entered farming from other lines of work, according to research by Purdue University farm-safety expert Bill Field, who has tracked farm fatalities for nearly four decades.

If Indiana’s trend is repeated across the country, it’s easy to see the magnitude of the safety issue.

The issue of safety and selling equipment also borders on the topic of dealer liability. This past summer, we asked dealers if they had ever been involved in a liability case with equipment they sold or purchased. More than 30% said yes.

Mike and I talked about this recently in terms of what dealers need to know and how to protect themselves. The trouble is that the issue of liability is never a clear one, especially when you have employees who might think they are ‘going the extra mile’ to help a customer or give advice, when those actions might put the dealership at risk.

Mike will be examining the topic of safety and liability in upcoming columns and we’re looking for your input. The topic is a sensitive one, so we can share your thoughts or real-life scenarios anonymously. We will also be talking with legal experts to share specifics to help you address the topic within your dealership. You can email me at lwoolf@lessitermedia.com or call me at 316-648-3717.

The topic of safety might be low priority in terms of all the day-to-day issues you face at your dealership, but the topic of liability, and being unaware of potential risks right now in your dealership, is one topic that should be top of mind.

In the meantime, here are link to some archived safety columns to share with your sales team and others: https://www.rurallifestyledealer.com/articles/339-safety-tips-what-your-customers-need-to-know.

Post your comments below or call or email and let’s get down to the business of addressing the liability issue.