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PONTIAC — Farmers commonly put off their own health care in favor of work that needs immediate attention.

"Health and safety is something that sometimes gets put on the back burner," said Jody Hughes, manager of the Livingston County Farm Bureau. "Farmers don't do it on purpose. But there are so many things that they have to keep up with; sometimes they are in a rush and don't think about it."

Livingston County Farm Bureau and OSF HealthCare Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac want farmers to rethink health and safety.

The two organizations co-sponsored their first Ag Health & Safety Fair on Friday at Saint James. The fair was timed before spring planting, said Tim Johnson, Saint James director of facility and ancillary services and a farmer from southwest of Flanagan.

Included in the fair were CPR classes. Among participants was Mike Wahls, a farmer from north of Chenoa. He farms with his dad and uncle and lives with his wife and two children.

"If anything ever happens, I want to be ready," Wahls said.

Craig Swartz, an Emington farmer, had his blood pressure checked and underwent a health risk assessment.

"Farmers tend to be more independent and take on more than they should," Swartz said. "They forget about their health."

"But we need to take care of the health of ourselves and our families," said Swartz, noting that farmers should know their family health history and see their doctor.

Sitting near a display on ag emergency readiness by the Pontiac Fire Department, Swartz said farming is a dangerous profession because farmers frequently work long hours alone and work with heavy machinery and livestock.

"Always let someone know where you are, if possible work with someone else, take time to understand the risks of the work you are undertaking and use proper safety equipment," he advised.

"When you're pushing too late and you're too tired, that's when accidents happen," Swartz said. "It usually can wait until tomorrow. At the end of the day, we want to come home to our families."

Mary Mackinson Faber, a dairy and grain farmer from north of Pontiac, talked with OSF occupational therapist Allison Hooper about carpal tunnel syndrome, had her blood pressure taken by OSF exercise physiologist Jessica Kraft and discussed snacking on fiber and protein with OSF registered dietitian Rachel Bauman.

"If I'm not healthy, I can't do the best I possibly can as I'm working, as a wife and a mom," Faber said. She exercises at home using workout DVDs early in the morning before her children wake up and before she starts work at 7 a.m.

"I have to make time for it," she said. "It's a stress reliever, and exercise clears your mind."

Farmers are strong and physically active. But some of their work involves short bursts of activity and that's why sustained exercise of 30 minutes a day five days a week is recommended, said Kraft and exercise physiologist Matt Janus.

"Sustained exercise will benefit your heart, lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases and improve your overall health," Janus said.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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