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Bill Field's Toy Collection is Serious Business

Studying replicas of machines helps him better understand how an accident might have happened.

Tom Bechman 1

June 24, 2014

2 Min Read

Bill Field wouldn't describe himself as a toy collector, but his office contains dozens of scale models of farm equipment. Some of them are 1/16th scale, some even larger. They're there for a reason.

"I'm often called to testify in a case involving a farm injury or death where farm equipment is involved," he says. "Sometimes I ask for a model of the piece of equipment when I take the case. Many of these models are real-life enough to help understand what might have happened in the accident."

Related: Does Indiana Really Have More Grain Entrapment Deaths Than Any Other State?


Field has testified in more than 100 cases in his more than 30 years as Extension farm safety specialist at Purdue University. His background in ag teaching and mechanical training make him ideal for understanding how machines work, and what might have gone wrong to cause an accident.

He doesn't just rely on toy models when he prepares for a case involving farm equipment. Many of the cases over the years have involved corn pickers. He has a working New Idea corn picker on his own farm.

In fact, the one-row model was one of the last ever made at the Coldwater, Ohio, plant. AGCO bought New Idea, eventually discontinued corn picker production as demand waned, and later closed the Coldwater facility in 1999.

AGCO stopped using the New Idea brand name altogether in 2007, although they still hold the rights to the name.

Related: What Does It Take To Excite People About Safety?

Having a real picker helps him answer questions that come up because he can go look at the machine and see how it works, rather than relying on pictures or drawings, or even models.

While Field would rather prevent accidents than have to testify after one happens, he lends his expertise when necessary. Unfortunately, there are more cases than he would like, because people still get injured or killed using farm equipment, even though the equipment is safer today and equipped with more safety protection devices than the equipment of decades ago.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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