Farmer urges drivers to use caution when approaching farm vehicles and equipment

Farming equipment at Heeg Farms Inc. in Marshfield, Wis.
Farming equipment at Heeg Farms Inc. in Marshfield, Wis.(WSAW)
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 10:27 AM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - Kevin Heeg has been farming for more than four decades. He’s seen it all when it comes to impatient drivers-- passing on the shoulder and passing in no-passing zones.

As planting season begins in Wisconsin, he’s begging drivers to be patient and resist the urge to take risks when encountering farming equipment.

He’s the owner of Heeg Farms Inc. in Marshfield. He said farming in this day in age is getting larger and faster, like vehicles and equipment because everything is about speed.

“This spring is a perfect example. The weather patterns have changed to the point that we have a shorter window to get things done... To make quality haylage, corn silage, everything like that you need to harvest things make piles very quickly, and get it packed and sealed up tight, so you get quality feed. And so everything just goes faster. Our window with Mother Nature is very short,” Heeg explained.

The outreach specialist for the National Farm Medicine Center, Melissa Ploeckelman said less than 2% of the population are farmers. That means farms are having to grow to keep up with the demand, however buying land that is already near their property can be difficult. For example, Heeg said it took him more than 30 years to buy a small parcel across his property. This leads to farmers having to buy land that’s further away from where they keep their equipment.

“Some of these farmers today they farm 20 miles away from each other, from where the feed is planted and harvested, to where it’s got to be stored. And so we all got to use the road. There are just no ifs, ands, or buts. Everything is down the road,” he explained.

The largest piece of equipment Heeg owns is a field cultivator and a corn planter that are both 30 feet wide.

“... Which in today’s standards are really small, a lot of things are 40 [to] 45 feet wide.”

He said the biggest difficulty he faces when taking the equipment to other parts of his farm on the roads is other drivers.

“The first thing everybody will think of and say is cell phones, eating, different things like that. I don’t, I believe that’s true. But as always is being said, I think it’s more people don’t understand that we’re wide... Very few people think of this garbage pickup out in the country, the garbage bins going out. Some people take them all the way out to the pavement. And we don’t fit between the garbage bin and the far lane.”

When it comes to approaching mailboxes and garbage cans, farmers will have to make a stop. However, that’s when he said drivers’ patience gets lost.

“You got to come to a complete stop if there’s a garbage bin there. And then the people behind you don’t understand because they don’t see what you see.”

When it comes to an obstacle in the road, they have to swerve and go around it, however, he said it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“If the driver of the equipment is not right on the throttle to get going again, everybody behind you will start passing you and you sit there because I think everybody’s driving for themselves. They’re in a hurry. And they’re thinking about themselves only. If there would be a little patience, a little common sense. We did not stop in the middle of the road for no reason at all. We stopped because there was an obstacle, something we have to go around. Or we are making a left-hand turn... We’re just trying to get home at the end of the day, just like everybody else.”

He said he has also noticed that drivers don’t always pay attention to their signals.

“I’m probably doing something illegal. And I’m going to continue to do it because it’s safer in my opinion. And that is during the daytime, I tell my guys not to run the flashers because when you got two flashing orange lights and you turn the left-hand signal on to cross traffic, you got two flashing lights. And then you got one solid warning, one flashing, it doesn’t catch your attention. So I tell them not to run signals during the daytime. They can see a slow-moving vehicle sign they can see that you got a fertilizer spreader, planter or whatever. And they should be slowing down for that reason, not because you got two flashing orange lights. And that way it catches their attention. And then they realize that you’re turning left. After years of driving, I started trying to do that and it seemed to work better,” he explained.

Heeg said drivers will sometimes pass him went it’s illegal to do so.

“We don’t want to be out on the highway no more than the general public wants us out there. We do it because it’s a necessity... Just wait 15 to 30 seconds later and I know it seems like it’s 10 minutes. But it’s the safest thing to do. None of us want to get in an accident. And we do the best we can.”

“Farmers do everything they can to ensure that they’re safe on the roadway, they have flashing lights, they have slow-moving vehicle emblems, they do everything they can to warn an oncoming driver that they’re using the public roadway... So when you first see those flashing lights, as a driver, you should already be hitting your brakes and slowing down. Because the speed you’ll come upon that implement is a lot faster than you expect. And running into the back of an implement could create major damage to the implement, to your own vehicle, and possibly even to human life,” Ploeckelman added.

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