Our Rural Roots

Did You Mean Whoa ... or Go?

The uniform farmer signaling code. (Image courtesy of the University of Maine Extension)

I'm horrible at hand signals. It doesn't matter whether I'm behind the wheel or doing the signaling. Well ... there is one gesture I'm fluent with, but using that while working around family every day is not at all advised.

I'm not good at interpreting hand signals even when I'm not under pressure, let alone in a situation that requires them for communication. My natural instinct is to yell and flail my arms about like I have a serious medical condition.

Believe it or not, there are 11 "official" hand signals for use on the farm. It seems ironic they were developed by the Indiana Safety Council (my home state). Ag engineering and safety groups retrofitted these hand motions for use on farms and ranches to use when noise levels are too loud, or the distance is too far for verbal instructions.

However, in my experience, the standard on farms is there is no standard. Having a sign that means cut the engine or continue to back up, or that indicates how far one should back up seems simple enough.

But, I would probably collapse in a heap of giggles or throw out a hip coming up with the combination of movements it would take to get someone to say: "Pick up the cultivator, back up 10 feet, let it down and pull forward 20 feet so I can check the depth."

Let's be honest: Every farm has its own set of signals that make sense or at least make sense to the person giving them. Imagine the chaos at an airport if a farmer was in charge of hand signals? As one of my Twitter followers recently said, some people just need to put their hands in their pockets and quit embarrassing themselves. I am most likely one of those.

Instead of all this arm waving, I'm sticking with Team Two-Way Radio all the way. Smartphones, backup cameras and other fancy tools may help, too. And, if I should ever happen to get one of those one-finger salutes, I'm going with the belief that whoever let it fly thinks I'm first in their book.

Interested in getting your signals down right? Find the uniform farmer signaling code at the National Ag Safety Database at www.nasdonline.org/77/d001697/hand-signals-for-agricultural-safety.html.


Editor's Note: Jennifer (Jent) Campbell writes a blog called Farm Wife Feeds (www.farmwifefeeds.com). Follow her on Twitter @plowwife and on the podcast @girlstalkag.