This is the Think About This editorial from the October issue of Ag Professional magazine.

My husband, Jay, had just hitched our trailer and 14' fi shing boat to the back of our small SUV when I decided to inspect his work. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Looking to see whether you crossed the chains like Fred says you’re supposed to,” I replied. “Oh, him again,” Jay said, and we laughed.

Maybe, like me, you’ve had some “Fred says” conversations with your spouse, employees and customers. Probably a lot of people have during the 25 years Fred Whitford has been coordinator of pesticide programs at Purdue University. While Whitford, 61, is Indiana-based, farmers and retailers across the U.S. have benefited from his work.  

“I’m right at 5,600 presentations and a little over 100 Extension publications,” he told me during a recent conversation.

Whitford has addressed topics as diverse as pesticide-drift prevention, safe towing and securing loads, and even practical practices retailers can use to build and retain customers. You can download all of his publications for free at My most recent interaction with Whitford was at the 2016 National Agronomic, Environmental, Health and Safety School ( “Safety School” is held each year just prior to the Midwest Ag Industries Exposition (MAGIE). Whitford’s presentation, his tenth at the event, was “Sprayer Cleanout: Tips and Techniques.”

In typical Fred fashion, he had the 150-plus retailers in the room laughing at some joke he told as the program got underway. If you know Whitford, then you know laughter is integral to his presentations. (If you don’t know him, you will once you meet him because he doesn’t know a stranger.) The laughter died down as Whitford got into the heart of his presentation and referenced “possible culprits” contributing to herbicide contamination in retail operations—spray tank surface walls and recessed drains, rubber hoses, screens and end caps on boom sections. As always, Whitford shared practical information. I gave him a follow-up call to get quotes for this editorial. My plan was to share highlights from the 11 Safety School presentations, particularly any information you could use this fall. As we talked, it occurred to me that Whitford’s work warranted a column all its own. The reason is most of you think only about how safety practices impact your jobs day to day.

Whitford considers that, too, and then looks beyond work to your personal life and loved ones. “Anything we can do to help retailers prevent an injury so they go home in one piece at night, you can’t beat that,”

Whitford says. “It’s what we should be doing, and you don’t need government to tell you that.” I agree, and I’ve pondered what you say to someone who’s had safety as his single-minded mission for 25 years. These words aren’t enough, but they’re the only ones I have: Thank you, Fred.

Read more from the October 2016 issue of Ag Professional magazine. 

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