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300 farm workers gather in Santa Maria to learn how to “Spray Safe”

About 300 farm workers gathered in Santa Maria Tuesday to learn how to “Spray Safe.” The event was put on by the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and it was geared towards bringing pesticide-awareness.

This is the second year the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau has held the Spray Safe event, a free training dedicated to educating Santa Barbara County growers, employees, supervisors, pest control advisors and applicators about safe spraying practices.

It was held from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Santa Maria Fair Park from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Spray Safe is free day-long intensive training program, offering Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) for eligible employees and course work that focuses on the prevention of pesticide-exposure incidents.

Luis Velasquez knows all about close calls out on the ag fields.

“I’ve actually inhaled the gas once and it hurts, you can’t breathe, you feel like you’re drowning, your eyes start watering, can’t open your eyes, it burns your lungs,” farm worker Luis Velasquez said.

Luis’ story is one of the reasons the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau held its second annual “Spray Safe” event at the Santa Maria Fair Park.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to improve communication among growers, chemical applicators and farm employees. There were live demonstrations in English and Spanish on the topics of field worker safety, equipment calibration and maintenance, laws and regulations and more. All agriculture employees on the Central Coast were encouraged to attend.

“I want to thank the farm owners, the employers who take the time to send their employees to be with us today,” Santa Barbara Count y Farm Bureau Executive Director Teri Bontrager said.

Spray Safe is a great continuing education tool for employees, a source of understanding new technology, and a way to better protect the health and safety of farmers, field crews and neighboring residents.

“As farmers and ranchers, we have a moral obligation to our workers, our neighbors and our communities to ensure that our required practices are conducted responsibly and safely,” past president of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau Victor Tognazzini said. “We are pleased to be able to offer this exceptional Spray Safe event and look forward to it becoming a regular program for our area.”

The March 7th program featured educational presentations, equipment displays, exhibits and a free barbecue lunch.

Spray Safe presentations included keynote speaker Brian Leahy, Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation as well as speakers from the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, the California Department of Education, Tee-Jet and the Strawberry Commission.

“This training program will give attendees a valuable opportunity to learn about new and improved practices and technologies to reduce pesticide drift and ensure employee and public safety,” said Cathy Fisher, SBC Agricultural Commissioner.

The Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, affiliated with the California and American Farm Bureau Federations, currently represents over 1,100 member families in Santa Barbara County, 80,000 in California and 6 million nationwide.

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