While they wait to put four wheels on the open road as licensed drivers, ninth grade students at Madison Central School are getting a different kind of driving lesson this fall. Members of Mr. Bruno’s Introduction to Agriculture class are working on a tractor safety unit as part of their curriculum.
The unit is designed to teach some foundational employment skills of working in agriculture, particularly the safe and knowledgeable operation of equipment that helps farmers do their job efficiently, and in turn keeps society moving forward with food on the table.
To help build that knowledge base, Instructor Matthew Bruno brought in a pair of guest speakers. Retired New York State trooper Bernie Kennett presented to the class about road safety, while Jim Carraba from Bassett Healthcare’s New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health discussed tractor-specific safety procedures with students. Kennett is a member of the MCS Class of 1979 who went on to be the traffic supervisor for Troop D in the New York State Police.
With that expert knowledge in tow, interested and motivated students can get something exciting to show for their efforts. The unit is part of a process that will offer students the opportunity to earn their National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program certification. This certificate allows individuals aged 14 and 15 to legally operate agricultural equipment for hire under US Department of Labor regulations.
The process includes several hours of instruction, a 50 question test and a driving exam that requires applicants to maneuver a tractor with a two-wheeled wagon under carefully supervised conditions.
An applicant who completes the requirements earns a valuable credential that can be used to get an in-demand job and generate income while still in high school.
“I'm hoping that the students are able to get a real world skill that can help the local economy out with basic laborers,” Bruno said.
Even if a student does not get their certification, Bruno said there is a valuable lesson to be learned in creating a greater sense of respect for agricultural vehicles on our roads.