As a kid, I spent many days perched precariously on the fender of my friend Randy Burke’s John Deere tractor (his dad’s John Deere, actually), travelling from one field to the next, driving to the nearby village for a break from fieldwork, doing whatever.

Riding on the fender was not safe and is heartily discouraged now. But that’s what rural kids did. You held on for dear life. It was a rural fact of life.

Fortunately, farm safety is a higher priority now than it was back then. Tractors have grown to be much, much bigger, as farms have grown, too. I think farmers drive them with more respect for their power than they did 40 or 50 years ago.

Tractors aren’t the only things that are bigger. Other farm machinery — planters, sprayers, combines, you name it — have likewise grown to meet new farming demands. When I was riding around on Burke’s fender, people were making a living on farms 100 to 200 acres in size. A farm 10 times that size now is not unusual. Double it again for farms in western Canada.

In Ontario, or anywhere else in Canada, drivers are bound to encounter big farm machinery on the road.

What should you do?

Take a deep breath, thank the farmer driving it for producing your food, and if you’re behind him or her, pass when safe.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario are embarking on a new road safety awareness campaign. A lot of their work occurs in the spring, and at this time of year they have a particular interest in making sure the roads are safe … for you, and them.

I write about the road safety awareness campaign in my Urban Cowboy column in the Guelph Mercury.