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N95 respirator and Lysol spray
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE: A regular dust mask or cloth mask may help prevent the spread of disease, but you need a well-fitted N95 respirator to protect you from inhaling particles carrying a virus.

Farming continues during pandemic, with a few tweaks

An FFA member embraces virtual meetings and the importance of hand sanitizer.

John Jackson, 16, has grown up with computers and iPhones. But Jackson, Jamestown, Ind., did something this spring that he had never done before on his family farm. He participated in virtual Zoom meetings from the tractor cab.

Jackson is an officer in the Western Boone FFA. His chapter initiated the Meat & Milk project to get food from local farms to food banks, where people could access it. Since the officers couldn’t meet in person, they met virtually. Some meetings were over Zoom, a computer platform that allows a group of people to connect via the internet and see and talk to each other. It’s like meeting in person, only the participants can be located almost anywhere.


Some Zoom meetings Jackson participated in from the tractor cab also qualified as e-learning events for school. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, e-learning in most school corporations was reserved for snow days.

Will use of this medium continue once the pandemic recedes? That remains to be seen, but Jackson figures he learned a valuable new skill. He knows it’s possible to join a meeting and represent his ideas while operating his tractor at the same time.

Health measures

Jackson notes that he and his family are taking safety measures that allow them to continue to farm and still comply as much as possible with COVID-19 guidelines.

“We’ve made sure to have hand sanitizer in the equipment and masks, if we need them,” Jackson says. “We have Lysol in the shop and spray down the cabs between drivers.”

When seed reps or equipment mechanics come to the farm, they do a good job of social distancing, Jackson reports. His family is taking advantage of curbside pickup for parts offered by both John Deere and Case IH dealerships.

“We can pick up parts outside their door and not worry about anything,” he says. “For the most part, it’s just been business as usual around here.”

Courtesy of John JacksconJohn Jackson standing on tractor

LEARNING, PLANNING, FARMING: This spring, John Jackson of Jamestown, Ind., learned you can participate in meetings from the tractor cab.

Other farmers also report business as usual, but with a few extra precautions. One farmer says he wears a mask and makes sure seed and fertilizer delivery people wear masks when delivering products to the farm.

There is some confusion about masks, and what they do and don’t do. Ed Sheldon, with Purdue University’s Extension farm safety program, was lead author on a recent article about respiratory protection for ag workers. It’s available on the Indiana Prepared website.

“The most common mask that has some effectiveness against airborne particles is the N95 respirator,” Sheldon says. To receive the N95 designation, masks undergo rigorous testing to meet standards set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH-certified N95 masks are marked with the NIOSH logo, and still must fit properly, Sheldon emphasizes.

He notes that dust masks and cloth face coverings, also referred to as comfort masks, may be useful in helping prevent an already-infected person from spreading a disease through sneezing or coughing. Some states and local jurisdictions have mandated wearing these masks.

However, Sheldon stresses that cloth face coverings, surgical masks and nuisance dust masks are not N95 respirators. They simply don’t fit tight enough to the wearer’s face to effectively stop inhalation of airborne particles carrying the infectious virus. If an N95 respirator is specified, then you need one carrying the NIOSH certification, he says.

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