PENN YAN, N.Y. — Being recognized as a “hero” is not always a comfortable fit for someone who is humble and self-effacing. Yet it’s those very qualities plus perseverance, courage and a dedication to community that have earned Yates County farmer Henry Martin the 2021 Hero Award from the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH).
The award was created to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of an individual or community partner whose work has enhanced agricultural safety and health in New York.
“Mr. Martin’s dedication to the agricultural community in and around Yates County has had a profound impact on the wellbeing of countless farm families,” said NYCAMH Agricultural Safety Specialist James Carrabba, who presented the award with NYCAMH Deputy Director Erika Scott on Thursday, Sept. 30 outside Martin’s home.
Leading with Courage. Martin has a long history of promoting farm safety awareness in Yates County, where he is a member of the Groffdale Conference, an Old Order Mennonite community comprised of about 450 families in the area.
The past year, however, presented a particularly difficult challenge when an 11-year-old child in his community was fatally entangled in a sweep augur. In hopes of preventing such incidents in the future, Martin worked with Carrabba to facilitate an investigation of the incident by NYCAMH and the New York State Department of Health’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (NY FACE) program. FACE investigations seek to identify factors that contribute to fatal work injuries. Comprehensive recommendations for preventing similar incidents are then developed and disseminated. For NY FACE, this is its first investigation of a youth incident as well as an incident involving an Anabaptist farm.
“From such tragedies come opportunities to spread knowledge and prevention,” said Carrabba. “We would not have been able to arrange that FACE investigation without Henry facilitating that for us.”
It’s not this event, however, that earned Martin the 5th annual NYCAMH Hero Award. Martin’s dedication to promoting farm safety trends years back.
Leading by Perseverence. Martin is a founding member of the Yates County farm safety committee, formed more than 13 years ago. In 2008, the committee launched a schoolhouse farm safety training program for youth. Presently, 40 schools participate in the trainings. NYCAMH has assisted with developing the content and has conducted formal evaluations of the trainings’ impact.
Leading by Serving Others. Martin has also been a key coordinator of the Yates Farm Safety Days for Families. Every other year the farm safety committee holds this event at the Benton firehouse. Started in 2010, the event draws about 300 people, mostly Mennonite families but also some “English” (non-Anabaptists) too.
In addition, opposite the years that the safety days are held, the farm safety committee hosts evening presentations called “Farm Safety for Families.” Martin was primarily responsible for starting these in 2009, and he has advocated to keep these going ever since, according to Carrabba. Typically held in the winter, these events consist of two evening sessions, one held at the Benton firehouse in the north part of Yates County and the other held the following week at the Himrod Fire Department, in the southern part of the county. Each evening attracts anywhere from 100 to 150 attendees.
Collaborating with others to expand impact. In 2014-2015, Martin and other farm safety committee members worked with Yates County’s Soil Water and Conservation District (SWCD) to conduct manure gas testing on farms that use gypsum bedding. Martin and SWCD went on to acquire a grant that paid for meters that measure hydrogen sulfide (h2S), a potentially deadly gas that is released when farm manure pits are agitated. The meters are available for area farmers to borrow. The Benton Fire Department also has used the meters to host a number of events on farms to educate area farmers as to the significant increase in H2S produced by farms that use gypsum products.
Martin was also instrumental in having the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) bring a manure pit rescue and safety simulator and a grain bin rescue and safety simulator to the Benton Fire Department to train fire fighters and community members. Inspired by the grain rescue training, a local grain farmer bought a grain rescue tube and gave it to the Benton Fire Department. Martin then helped to get all of the other equipment needed for the fire department to perform grain rescues, such as body harnesses, lifelines, shovels, helmets, a rescue auger and brushless drill, according to Carrabba.
Martin was also instrumental in the Yates farm safety committee’s acquisition of a grant to build a farm safety hazard display board. Mahlon Hurst, another key safety committee member, built what is an impeccably detailed hazard board or miniaturized version of an operating farm that depicts typical hazards throughout for children to identify.
Given his years of dedication to promoting farm safety, it’s no wonder that, despite Martin’s hesitance to be the focus of praise, he was selected for NYCAMH’S 5th annual Hero Award. His accomplishments, in partnership with the Yates farm safety committee, the Yates Fire Department and NYCAMH, have been extraordinary and enduring.
NYCAMH, a program of Bassett Healthcare Network, is enhancing agricultural and rural health by preventing and treating occupational injury. To learn more about its many free farm safety education and training services, go to www.nycamh.org or contact the center at 800-343-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine & Health – NYCAMH
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