Why Do Farmers Work At Night?

It’s no secret that farmers are some of the first people to rise in the morning, but you might be wondering, “why do farmers work at night?” While night work is certainly not as common as early morning laboring, farm work doesn’t end just because the sun has set.

Why Do Some Farmers Work At Night?

There are a few main reasons why farmers choose to work at night. Here’s a video explaining why before we dive into the lengthier explanation:

To Beat the Heat

In many areas, farmers choose to work at night in order to avoid the sweltering heat of the day.

As climate change becomes a growing concern and average summertime temperatures are on the rise, more farmers are adopting a PM schedule in order to stay safe.

It’s not just uncomfortable to work in the heat, but it can be dangerous. Heat illness can make farmworkers extremely sick or even kill them.

To Get Ahead of Extreme Weather

If you know a storm is coming, it makes sense to work at night. Livestock farmers anticipating a heavy rainstorm or blizzard often work doubletime to make sure their animals are housed, fed, and bedded appropriately before the bad weather comes in.

Time Crunches 

Working at night is common when you’re short on time. If weather or equipment breakdowns have made it impossible for you to plant, the good news is that your tractor most likely has headlights! You can work at night to get caught up.

After all, conservative figures estimate that a farmer can expect to lose a large percentage of his total yield for every day he is late in planting – it makes sense to work at night to catch up. 

Staying Away From Pests

Cool nights offer more desirable working conditions for you – and they also make it less likely that you’re going to encounter dangerous pests like stinging bees and venomous rattlesnakes.

While this isn’t a concern everywhere, it certainly is in many of the major crop-producing areas of the country.

Labor Shortages

Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hands to go around – and a farmer who is overworked with too much to do and not enough time to get it done may find himself working 24/7.

Of course, this isn’t desirable – working too much without rest dramatically increases the likelihood of fatal injury. However, it is sometimes a necessity.

Why Do Farmers Plow at Night?

Some farmers choose to plow at night as well. Most of the time, this is done for the same reasons that were mentioned above – to get around labor or time shortages, to get ahead of the weather (or stay out of extreme heat), or to avoid pests.

There are a few more reasons why a farmer might choose to plow in the dark, too.

For example, there are several types of plows that can be used. Some plows go deep into the soil and are used immediately after harvesting the last season’s crop.

When used in the dark, it can invert the subsurface oil so that the next day, soilborne pathogens and insects (along with their eggs) can be killed when the sun comes out.

Sometimes farmers plow at night simply to make the most of the time they have. By preparing the seedbed at night, they can plant the very next day. There’s less time for weed seeds to germinate. 

And if you’re a farmer who is renting his equipment, you may want to make the most of the money you’re spending by plowing around the clock rather than just in the daylight hours.

Why Do Farmers Harvest at Night?

Most warm-season crops taste better when they’re harvested during the coolest periods of the day.

This includes things like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. In fact, very few crops taste best when they’re harvested mid-morning (generally, only cool-season crops like broccoli fall into this category). Even grapes are much easier to harvest and work with at night than they are during the day.

Many farmers harvest at night not only to beat the heat themselves but also to ensure that their crops are at the peak of freshness.

For farmers putting their harvest directly on a truck to be delivered to customers, harvesting at night serves the added benefit of helping the driver beat traffic. There are simply fewer cars on the road in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning than there are during the day.

Considerations When Working at Night

why do farmers harvest at night

Working at night is a necessity for many farmers, but that’s not to say that it is without any risks. There are several considerations that need to be made.

Safety Concerns

As more growers and producers begin adopting the habit of nighttime work, there is also growing concern about the hazards associated with working in the dark.

The same safety concerns exist at night that exist during the day but they may be exacerbated by things like fatigue (even if you sleep during the day to make up for the adjusted schedule, your circadian rhythms may still be thrown off), poor lighting, criminal activity, and exposure to nocturnal animals.

Trips, falls, and collisions are much more likely at night.

Night shift work in other settings, like hospitals and on construction sites, has been shown to negatively impact health in many ways. This is a major concern that farmers working at night need to address in planning out their schedules.

Can Farmers Make Noise at Night?

In most areas that are agriculturally zoned, it is not illegal for farmers to make noise at night.

Whether it’s animal noises or the noise of agricultural machinery like combine harvesters working early in the morning, the reality is that noise is simply part of farming.

That’s not to say that neighbors won’t complain, however, even if the area is zoned for farming.

Farmers can limit the noise they make at night by using newer, quieter machinery that is well maintained. Whenever possible, try to avoid using loud machinery like combine harvesters except for during regular daylight hours.

Lighting Standards

In many areas, there are lighting standards in place to help keep farmers and other farm workers safe when they are working after hours.

For example, all tractors that are going to be used after sunset or before sunrise must be equipped with at least one headlight that can illuminate 50 feet or more. This is the current lighting standard for agricultural equipment.

However, this standard does not apply to areas where other work may be carried out. Because of this, it’s a good idea to illuminate all areas you know you’ll be working in or near at night.

You and any people you are working with should wear high-visibility clothing, like reflective vests, at night, too.

Night Work – the New Normal for Farmers?

Night work may not be your chosen work environment. However, if you live on a farm, you may find that what used to be normal no longer is – and night work is now just as much of a necessity for you as it is for other workers, like doctors and prison guards.

The tips above should help you understand the various reasons for working at night – and to navigate this new schedule safely!

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