Suppose there are three houses side by side along one edge of a field that you’re farming for the first time. You don’t know the people who live there, but when you planted the field, you noticed two of the three have gardens. One of those also has a flower garden. The roses weren’t in bloom yet, but you recognized the rose bushes. The third homeowner doesn’t appear to have a garden, but there are a few fruit trees along the back fence.
Here’s your dilemma. Do you take time — that you don’t think you really have — to stop and visit each neighbor, and tell them what you will be spraying? Should you share with them what precautions you’re taking to make sure what you apply won’t drift onto their property? Or do you take your chances, skip the visits, hope for the best and spray the field?
If you’re Mose Middleton, a professional applicator for Nutrient Ag Solutions, Fulton, Ind., you prefer talking to the homeowners first if you have the chance.
“I stop and talk to them if I can,” Middleton says. “I like to meet people, and I see it as an opportunity to explain to them what I’m going to do in the field. It’s a chance to educate people.
“You’ll find that many of them are nice people. Often, they just don’t understand agriculture and why it’s important to spray for weeds, diseases and insects when it’s warranted. They also don’t realize that if you’re doing things right, you’re taking precautions to prevent potential injury to anything on their property.
“You will run into someone occasionally who isn’t willing to listen, but most of the time people will listen if you take the time to talk to them. I feel like building up good relations with people who live in rural areas but don’t farm is part of the job.”
The alternative is risking meeting them later, when they think you caused a problem for their trees, flowers or garden — whether what you did affected their plants or not, Middleton says. Those conversations are usually more tense, with less chance for education.
Do it right
Meeting your neighbors and explaining what you’re doing only helps if you’re following labels and doing things to the best of your ability in the first place. Middleton says he and his colleagues take all the steps possible to follow label directions for products they’re applying.
If it’s dicamba for application over Xtend soybeans, that can be challenging, but it’s still doable, he says. “If the label for any product says you need to leave a buffer, then you make sure you leave the amount of buffer that’s required,” he says. “The best thing you can do is follow the label.”
Agco recognized Middleton for his efforts as a professional applicator recently. The company named him Operator of the Year in 2019.