Agricultural safety and health course generates partnership between state extension and public health

Date: April 19th, 2017

Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries in the United States, and farmers continue to be at high risk fatal and nonfatal injuries. Every day, about 100 farmers suffer a lost-work-time injury. These numbers can have series effects on family farm’s economic viability.

Diane Rohlman, associate professor at the University of Iowa, is very familiar with the impact of these numbers.  She has led the Agricultural Safety and Health Core Course at the College of Public Health for 5 years.  “The University of Iowa has a long history in promoting agricultural safety and health. Our course originated over 20 years ago and is now offered in other states,” says Rohlman. “The intention has always been to give professionals the skills that they need to recognize and prevent illness and injury among farmers.” In 2017, more than 30 students enrolled in the on-site course at the University of Iowa. The course is unique in that it utilizes hands-on demonstrations and field experiences as a compliment to support classroom learning.

The networking reception during the Core Course is an opportunity for attendees to learn about research, teaching, and outreach activities focused on agricultural and rural safety and health at the University of Iowa.

One such student was Shannon Hoyle, who was an extension program assistant of Value Added Agriculture at Iowa State University (ISU).  “I originally attended the Core Course when I started work at extension,” said Hoyle.  “And although I farm part-time, this class really opened my eyes in different ways.”  Although Hoyle was not from a medical background, she said that as an extension specialist it was still very interesting to hear about the occupational health issues related to agricultural work.  “The class gave me a much broader sense of some hazards and safety issues that I wasn’t thinking of before.”

In addition, the course provided Hoyle with some unique networking opportunities.  “On the first day, there was a networking reception which showcased research and outreach activities by people at the University of Iowa and other organizations — and I was able to learn about other programs and organizations that help the same clients that we do,” said Hoyle.

The networking paid off.  During the course, Hoyle learned more about a Pilot Project Program through the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (  She then worked with ISU Extension Visit Iowa Farms Program Coordinator Kendra Meyer to apply for a pilot grant to host safety workshops for agrotourism destinations across the state of Iowa.  “Safety might not be the first topic that farm destination owners consider when opening their property to visitors and hiring employees, but it is certainly one of the most important,” said Meyer.  In October, Hoyle and Meyer received $30,000 to fund the workshops and develop training materials. The first Agritourism Destination Safety workshop was held in Altoona, Iowa and had 21 producers attend.  Workshops are slated to continue through the winter 2018. For information, visit or contact Meyer at

“I was excited to learn that Shannon and Kendra got the funding for the agrotourism workshops because our pilot grants are competitive,” says Rohlman.  “This is a great example of how someone who participated in our class, learned about opportunities that are available through the Great Plains Center, and was able to apply for funding.”

For more information on the course and pilot grant funding opportunities:

The Agricultural Safety and Health Core course is being offered in more than one location in 2018.  Anyone interested in agricultural health and safety can participate, including physicians, nurses, emergency medical responders, health educators, advanced practice nurses, Ag extension, migrant health clinicians, physical therapists, insurance specialists, veterinarians, and safety engineers.  CEUs available.

If you are interested in learning more about the course or how to apply for a Pilot Grant in Agricultural Safety and Health, please contact author and GPCAH Center Coordinator, Jenna Gibbs, at