Farmer vs Winter: Winning Strategy for Battling Wind Chill

By Bethany Kroeze | Marketing & Communications Specialist

The low temperatures forecast for Wednesday across the Midwest. NWS via Fox News.

(alarm ringing)

It’s 5 a.m. You roll over, refresh the weather on your phone and instantly wish you hadn’t seen the number: -15°. And that doesn’t include the wind chill.

But you’re a farmer; you don’t get a two-hour late start due to inclement weather. Livestock still need to be fed, fences need to be secure and equipment still must function properly.

Since we know that you work hard every day, no matter the weather, we wanted to share some tips on how to stay warm and safe during this arctic blast.

As the temperature drops, add layers to stay warm. National Weather Service.

1. Dress for Success

Time to head out to do chores? Layer up!

That’s right, you’ll need to bundle up with more than a jacket over your jeans and sweatshirt. Start with multiple layers and if you get sweaty while you work, you can slowly peel off layers to stay comfortable.

One of the first places you lose body heat is through your head, so don’t forget to put on your hat and flip on your hood. Keep your head and ears protected with a cozy ear-flap hat and cover your face with a scarf.

Frostbite strikes your fingers, toes and nose first, so in addition to that scarf, protect your hands with a thick pair of gloves and layer cotton socks beneath a pair or two of wool socks before you put on your boots. Speaking of boots, make sure yours are equipped for both safety and warmth and fit properly.

Finally, don’t forget your cell phone! Keep your phone fully charged and turn up the volume on local weather alerts so you stay informed about local conditions.

The science of wind chill. National Weather Service.

2. Pay Attention to the Wind Chill

Since we just mentioned using a weather app on your phone, here’s a repeat remind to stay informed. The Weather Channel defines wind chill as “how cold it actually feels on your skin when the wind is factored in.” Meteorologists often refer to the wind chill as the “feels-like” temperature. So basically, whatever the air temperature, the wind speed makes it feel that much colder.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has this handy chart that you can print and hang in your shop to help determine how long working outdoors is safe in negative temperatures. While you’re there, read about symptoms and treatment of cold stress, including frostbite and hypothermia.

3. Take Frequent Breaks to Warm Up

Based on the chart referenced above, you should take frequent breaks from the cold to allow your body the chance to warm up. So, what’s the best way to do that? In a December 2017 blog post, Farm Bureau suggests sipping a warm, sweet beverage or eating a warm, high-calorie snack or meal to help re-energize your body. We enjoy hot tea with local honey!

When you take a break from the cold, don’t forget to hydrate. In a blog on their website, American Family Insurance reminds farmers to stay hydrated with plenty of liquids during extreme cold. When it’s cold outside, you’re less likely to hydrate with cold water, but it’s even more important because your body uses more fuel to keep your core warm.

Winter Travel Safety Tips. National Weather Service.

4. Communication is Key

Before you head out to work, tell someone what you’ll be doing, where they can find you and how long you’ll be there. Also, don’t forget to bring your fully-charged cell phone and keep a charger in your truck, just in case.

It’s not a bad idea to use a two-way radio when hauling livestock or doing other physically demanding chores, just to keep an open line of communication in case something goes awry.

5. Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Vehicle

As mentioned above, it’s important to keep an extra phone charger in your vehicle for emergencies. But you should have more on hand than just an extra phone charger, so put together an emergency kit to keep in your vehicle.

What should you put in your kit? The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests keeping a basic kit in your vehicle year-round that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, a first aid kit, bottled water, a multi-tool (i.e. a Leatherman Tool or Swiss Army Knife) and road flares or reflective warning triangles.

When winter rolls around, add these items to your kit: blankets, hats, gloves, an ice scraper, a snow shovel, sand or kitty litter (to help with traction), tire chains and a tow strap, hand warmers (we love Hot Hands in our gloves and in our boots), extra boots, a change of clothing, extra socks, and a sleeping bag.

Some other suggestions for your kit include: a small fire extinguisher, tire gauge, jack and lug wrench, gloves, rags, baby wipes or hand sanitizer, duct tape, granola bars, a lighter or matches, paper maps.

Now join us in counting the days until spring and crossing our fingers that Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow this weekend.