Though it’s been nearly five years since her grandfather died, Alyssa Fodor still remembers the suffering her family experienced when he never returned home from his daily farm chores.
And that’s why the 22-year-old from Rittman, Ohio, along with her friend, woke up at 3 a.m. Tuesday to travel to York, Pennsylvania to speak at a tractor safety demonstration during the opening day of the 12th Keystone Farm Show held at the York Fairgrounds.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences hosted a kickoff ceremony showcasing a rollover protection system (ROPS) for farm tractors, at its exhibition booth in the Toyota Arena.
Fodor, teary-eyed from the horrific memory, said her grandfather was passionate about his farm and was always on his tractor doing routine farm work or clearing hayride trails for church youth groups.
When police found her grandfather, they discovered his tractor had rolled multiple times and crushed him to death, Fodor said.
Between 2000 and 2008, Pennsylvania recorded 58 farm-related tractor rollover deaths, including five in York County and another five in Lancaster County, said Aaron Yoder, instructor and extension safety associate with Penn State.
For the first time, farmers across the state have access to a program that makes life-saving tractor equipment affordable and simple to order, Yoder said, in reference to ROPS Retrofit Program for Pennsylvania Farmers.
The rollover equipment generally costs between $800 and $1,000, sometimes matching the cost of a farmer’s tractor, he said, explaining why more farmers don’t use the safety equipment.
Also, many farmers don’t want to go through the hassle of ordering and installing the equipment, he added.
“Farmers should consider (the ROPS) as cheap insurance. Just think, we pay health and life insurance; (ROPS) will last for the life of the tractor,” Yoder said.
The ROPS is designed to limit a roll by 90 degrees, so that if a tractor rolls, it would fall onto its side or (with one end) in the air, he said.
Yoder said the protective equipment is beneficial for all farmers, not just farmers who live in areas with a lot of hills.
“It’s no different than riding a bicycle too fast and cutting a corner too short. Even if you’re pulling something out of the ground with a hitch, it could roll backward,” he said.
Through the ROPS Retrofit Program for Pennsylvania Farmers, farmers are reimbursed about 70 percent of the cost of their tractor rollover protection kit — a roll bar and seatbelt — up to a savings of $765, Yoder said.
The rebate program in Pennsylvania is modeled after a similar program in New York, which was implemented over about four years and equipped more than 800 farm tractors with the ROPS, Yoder said.
Thus far, the state has received nearly $28,000 in donations, which should provide enough equipment for 36 tractors.
And this year, about 26 tractors should be equipped with the ROPS, he said.
“So if we’re trying to beat, or at least match New York, we really need the support of our sponsors, since (New York) equips about 200 a year,” he added.