Innovating for Agricultural Safety: Highlights from UMASH’s Spring 2024 Gathering

Innovating for Agricultural Safety: Highlights from UMASH’s Spring 2024 Gathering

MAY 2024

UMASH colleagues come together at the Spring 2024 Center Meeting to collaborate on improving agricultural safety and health in the Upper Midwest.

In April 2024, UMASH researchers and staff gathered at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve to share updates on ongoing UMASH projects, discuss emerging issues, and strengthen collaborations to support agricultural safety and health in the Upper Midwest region.

Attendees represented each of UMASH’s collaborating institutions, including faculty and researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, the National Farm Medicine Center, Migrant Clinicians Network, and the Minnesota Department of Health.

Sharing Safety Insights

Joining the group for the day, guest speaker Paul Aasen, Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Safety Council and UMASH Advisory Board Member shared about the current priorities for the Minnesota Safety Council and how the Council is going about addressing these priorities with a nuanced approach around safety culture.

UMASH Project Updates

In addition to networking and sharing Center updates, UMASH project and research teams shared about their project’s progress, successes, and discussed ideas on how UMASH teams can work together to navigate emerging issues and challenges.

During the meeting, attendees heard updates from UMASH projects, like the Pilot Project, Emerging Issues, and Outreach programs.

Bruce AlexanderPilot Project Program

Attendees heard from UMASH Founding Director Bruce Alexander and project lead of the UMASH Pilot Project program which sets out to address the ever-changing nature of the agriculture workplace and potential new threats to worker health and safety by working collaboratively with researchers, professionals, and community members to advance the field of agriculture health and safety.

Megan SchossowEmerging Issues Program

The goal of UMASH’s Emerging Issues Program is to identify and respond to emerging or re-emerging issues that may impact the health and well-being of the agricultural workforce and their families. UMASH Center coordinator and Outreach Director Megan Schossow highlighted UMASH’s newest developments exploring issues such as aging on the farm, swine health and safety, and occupational health and safety training for Vet Techs And Vet Assistants.

Schossow also discussed UMASH’s community outreach efforts to engage with farmers, families, and workers in agricultural communities.

Research Highlights

UMASH Researchers also presented their current research projects with updates from the following research projects:

Rural Firefighters Delivering Agricultural Safety and Health: RF-DASH
Principal investigator, Dr. Casper Bendixsen, reported how the RF-DASH team is providing rural firefighters and emergency responders with farm safety knowledge and tools by developing training programs, and collaborating with community partners to support farmers’ access to capable health and safety consultation.

Factors Influencing Transmission of Airborne Viruses and Bacteria in Animal Agriculture
Co-principal investigator, Dr. Sagar Goyal, shared how the team’s project is collecting air and surface samples from swine, poultry, and dairy facilities to understand how to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of zoonotic diseases between animals and workers in animal agriculture facilities.

The Influence of On-farm Exposures and Biosecurity Practices on the Skin and Nasal Microbiomes of US Swine Workers
Representing the research team, PhD student Gerardo R Diaz discussed how the team is collecting samples from swine facilities to explore how the conditions within swine farms influence the microbiome, or community of fungi, bacteria, and viruses of swine workers.

Identifying Individual Contextual Determinants Underpinning Farmers Help-seeking Strategies and their Role in Shaping Mental Health Outcomes
Co-principal investigator, Dr. Carrie Henning-Smith, shared how the project team is working with partners in the community to explore the landscape of mental health resources to understand the impact of individual and environmental influences on farmers and how likely they are to seek mental health support.

Surveillance for Zoonotic Diseases in Agricultural Workers in Minnesota I & II
Project coordinator, Carrie Klumb, discussed how the project team is using carry forward funding to continue to assess animal agriculture exposures in all Minnesota residents with confirmed Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections. Klumb also elaborated on how the Minnesota Department of Health is monitoring avian influenza virus A (H5N1) and offering training for those working in agritourism with an agritourism workshop.

Photo Gallery

UMASH Center Meeting
April 17, 2024
Lake Elmo, MN
Lake Elmo Park Reserve