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."
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.
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.