We assessed the work performed by children, adolescents, and adults on Wisconsin dairy and fresh market vegetable farms. We also continued and evaluated two ongoing interventions to protect children, adolescents, and adults from musculoskeletal and traumatic injury associated with paid and unpaid work on dairy and fresh market vegetable farms. We built on previous work that suggested that: children and adolescents in traditional agriculture suffered largely the same types of injuries as adults since there were few differences in the rankings and proportionate weights of injury causal factors between youth and adults (Chapman et al., 1998), adult farm managers determined which production practices and equipment were used on an operation and, thereby, what hazards child, adolescent, and adult workers were exposed to (Rogers, 1995), and interventions that encouraged the adult farm manager to modify production practices and equipment in ways that improved both production efficiency and safety at the same time were more likely to be successfully adopted by the largest number of adult farm managers (e.g. Nowak and Okeefe, 1993). As described in our original application, we accomplished the following specific aims: 1. Learn from a pilot group of dairy producers and fresh market vegetable growers more about the work that children and adolescents typically perform and what hazards they face. We confirmed that adolescents and, to a lesser degree children, largely performed the same range and scope of work as adults employed in dairy and fresh market vegetable production. 2. Learn more about what this pilot group of producers and growers has already done to improve safety and health among working children and adolescents, especially modifications (including changes in management practices and equipment) that maintain or improve profitability. We learned about many production practices and equipment that a few dairy and fresh market vegetable producers already had in place with potential to reduce hazard exposures while improving or sustaining work efficiency. 3. Evaluate these modifications and others we identify or develop with quantitative/qualitative methods to better document the type and degree of advantages to profits and safety. We studied a number of these production practices and equipment items in the field with small scale, ad hoc research efforts and were able to quantify the order of magnitude of any improvements in hazard exposure or production efficiency. We spent a great deal of time with growers and dairy farmers and were able to produce some research results. but not the quantity of evidence that we originally intended and planned to complete. We encountered difficulties setting up and accomplishing scientifically-controlled comparisons using skilled personnel from dairy and fresh market vegetable operations. We also encountered difficulties controlling for "extraneous" variables including weather and weather differences within local areas, normal crop quality and maturation variability within fields, personal characteristics of operators and their changing situations, etc.. However, we believe we successfully accomplished our original aim and acquired enough data and field experience with the production methods and labor aids we promoted to reasonably justify their value as injury hazard- reducing modifications that sustained or improved production efficiency. 4. Share the results with other state dairy producers and vegetable growers in a public information communication campaign and evaluate the campaign among a carefully defined, large sample selected to be representative of operations statewide. The results of this work were successful and demonstrated that, for each intervention: a) new promotional materials were developed and additional resource people were enlisted and trained, b) work with pilot farms continued and pilot farms continued to provide demonstration sites to promote the interventions, c) we continued to provide our materials and present at public events including farmer field days, conferences, and other meetings, d) our work with agricultural journalists was successful at resulting in numerous articles about the production practices and labor aids we were promoting that appeared in specialty publications intended for dairy producers and growers, e) our questionnaire results demonstrated that growers and dairy farmers saw, read, or heard about the production practices and labor aids we were promoting at public events, in production print publications, and in other venues we aided, f) the questionnaire results showed that vegetable grower awareness, adoption and perceptions increased across the three intervention years for only a few of the production practices and labor aids we promoted (perhaps due to our difficulties in maintaining comparability between operations in our 98-99 and 00-01 sampling frames), g) the questionnaire results showed that dairy producer awareness, adoption and perceptions increased measurably between the baseline and fourth intervention year for all but one production practice, although the increases were often marked by early rises and later stabilization instead of steady sequential increases (perhaps due, in part, to larger economic forces/low milk prices depressing investment).
University of Wisconsin-Madison, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Biological Systems Engineering Department, 460 Henry Mall, Madison, WI 53706