Francisco Ortiz was killed in a dairy farm accident. Ortiz was a father and husband. Photo courtesy of the Workers' Center of CNY

Editor’s Note: Three people in the Ithaca area have died in farm-related incidents in the last 21 months, including Craig Schenk (Lansing), Francisco Ortiz (Town of Ithaca), and Nathan Hoover (Town of Culvert, just north of Tompkins County).

Dan Brown is a professor in Cornell’s Animal Science Department. He wrote the following letter in response to a column published yesterday in The Voice.

As always, those interested in submitting a response can email

— Jeff Stein

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Written by Dan Brown:

Please don’t make farm safety an “us vs them” , “farmer vs worker”, “OSHA vs business owner” issue. Preventable injuries affect everybody and a safer farm for hired workers is also a safer farm for family workers. There is sometimes a sense of fatalism among farm families (“farming is just going to be dangerous” attitude). When you add to that the normal human nature that leads farm operators to think that they can completely control the hazards of using hazardous equipment by “just being careful”, you can understand why they get get hurt so often.

Hired farm staff are injured at a rate as high or higher than miners in the US. And since farm workers outnumber farm owners in many parts of the country, the absolute numbers make farm work seem more hazardous to hired staff. But, believe it or not, the rate of injury and death among the owners, managers and their families on farms is even higher than that of hired workers. In any large room full of older farmers, the ratio of fingers to heads never reaches 10:1, and you will find that the ratios of paired organs and limbs per farmer are < 2:1 , as well. And those are the survivors!

Owners and their families have just as much interest in making the farm safer as anyone out there. Wouldn’t a friendlier, unified approach to taking on hazards as the enemies be preferable to conflict between the two populations of people getting hurt on farms: owner families and hired workers?

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.