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NB apple grower hosts 2012 Ag Safety Week launch


February 29, 2012
By Theresa Whalen

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David CoburnFebruary 29, 2012 – The
2012 eastern launch of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) will be hosted
by Coburn Farms Apple Cider at Keswick Ridge near Fredericton, N.B., on March 8
at 10 a.m.

February 29, 2012 – The
2010 eastern launch of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) will be hosted
by Coburn Farms Apple Cider at Keswick Ridge near Fredericton, N.B., on March 8
at 10 a.m.

“We’ve
never had a serious work-related injury and we’re proud of that safety record,”
says David Coburn, owner of Coburn Farms. “The health and well being of my
family, workers and animals are very important to me. When everyone is healthy,
the whole farm runs better.”

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David Coburn 

 

Coburn
operates a 260 acre mixed operation consisting of 25,000 laying hens, a
computerized feed mill, in-vessel composting system and a 10-acre apple orchard
and cider press. The family business employs his wife, Karen, two of their
three adult children and three other full time staff as well as up to six
seasonal workers.

Part of
Coburn’s safety ethic stems from his 20 years as a volunteer fire fighter –
eight of those as Fire Chief. Safety is a value shared by both of his sons who
are also volunteer fire fighters.

Tragically,
in November 2010, the fire fighter pagers beckoned for aid to put out a fire at
Coburn’s apple storage facility, which ended in a total loss. From the ashes,
Coburn built a new state-of-the-art apple storage and press, which is the site
for the eastern launch of CASW this year.

Coburn
drew on this experience to develop his own farm safety plan. Using the
templates and plan structure of the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association’s Canada FarmSafe Plan, he has compiled a
customized blueprint for safety specific to his operation. A free download of
the core Canada FarmSafe Plan is available at www.planfarmsafety.ca.

“Many
of the things outlined in the Canada FarmSafe Plan are what we were practicing
anyway – now we have committed them to paper,” explains Coburn. “We’ve also
made it our business policy to do the extras unique to our operation such as
paying for all staff to get flu shots – particularly for the poultry operation.
And all the apple staff has food safety handling training. For us, this is an
important part of the way we do business – so it’s in our farm safety plan.”

Leading
by example has been an effective communication tool with staff. Coburn meets
with staff for about half an hour every morning to discuss the day’s activities
and remind them of any safety considerations.

“I want
buy-in and cooperation from my staff to do things safely. If I have to nag or
enforce safety behaviours – then that worker is not a good ‘fit’ in my
business,” says Coburn.

In
addition to his customized Canada FarmSafe Plan, Coburn has developed operating procedures manuals for his poultry operation, the apple press and is in the
process of completing one for the feed mill.

Coburn
markets his operation as a closed loop farm, meaning all stages of production
and output are recycled and reused rather than discarded. As part of these
sustainable practices he grows and mills the feed for the chickens, then
composts all waste products from the chickens and apple pressing. The compost
is then spread on the orchards, replenishing to the earth the nutrients that
were withdrawn.

“I
don’t see the way I farm as being exceptional,” says Coburn. “I just want to
build a good life for my family and workers and leave my piece of the world in
good shape for future generations.”

The
CASW campaign’s three-year theme is Plan • Farm • Safety. This year, the
emphasis is on Safety, which includes assessment, improvement and further
development of safety systems. Last year, the focus was on Farm, highlighting
implementation, documentation and training. In 2010, the campaign promoted
Plan, featuring safety walkabouts and planning for safety.


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