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Life on the farm easier without an air conditioner

Farmer's house does not have cooling unit

POSTED: August 19, 2014 1:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

David White is no stranger to the heat as he works his Lula farm Monday afternoon. White says there are hotter jobs than farming.

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David White doesn’t mind technology. He just doesn’t like one piece in particular.

“We don’t live with air conditioning here on the farm,” he said.

The Lula resident and his wife, Anita, know the luxury is more harmful than helpful in their particular case, so they avoid it like the heat stroke magnet it is.

“We don’t want to get used to being cool,” White said. “The best way to deal with the heat of working outside is to get outside in the morning and heat up with the day.”

Doing otherwise serves as a source of some serious problems.

“The last thing you want to do is step outside at 2 in the afternoon and try to go to work,” White said, “It’ll knock your socks off.”

While the farmer might initially seem overly cautious, he knows the statistics: 423 farmers died from heat-related illnesses in the past 15 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , with heat stroke serving as the No. 1 killer. Additionally, farmers are 20 times more likely than average civilians to suffer such a fate.

White knows how being overheated can drain a field worker. For 13 years, he and his wife have operated their farm, It Began With a Seed. Their crops — which include everything from lettuce to broccoli to cucumbers to radishes to tomatoes — mainly are distributed through their Community Supported Agriculture program, where the Whites deliver produce to customers who have prepaid for the service. More fruits and vegetables make their way to the Original Hall County Farmers Market, the association for which White serves as president. And, finally, his goodies travel to the Gainesville eatery, 2 Dog Restaurant, where the fresh fixings show up in an array of locally inspired dishes.

While accomplishing all these tasks, White has fallen prey to heat stroke, which the Mayo Clinic defined as a “condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure or physical exertion in high temperatures.” Specifically, heat stroke can occur if a body rises to 104 degrees or higher, in which case emergency treatment is needed, as untreated heat stroke can damage the brain, heart, kidney and muscles.

“Now, I’ve suffered from it,” White said. “I think everybody who has some sort of outside job has to some extent. But I’d never get anything done if I was always worrying about it.”

Instead, the organic grower sticks to a set of rules designed to keep him safe.

“Change clothes a lot,” he said. “And drink. You’ve got to drink even when you’re not thirsty, before you get thirsty. Because by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already behind, and if you ever get behind on your water, you’re pretty much shot for the day.”

Another tip is retreating from the sun occasionally.

“That’s another way to deal with the heat,” White said. “Find yourself a good shade tree and take a break.

While White suggests getting out of the heat from time to time, he recognizes another summer predator: humidity.

“The heat is one thing, but that humidity is even worse,” he said.

He recommends consuming drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade, to replace the salts and minerals lost when working with heat.

Despite all the peskiness of the heat, White knows farming is where he is meant to be.

“My wife always wanted to do it, and all my life I said I wanted to spend every day with her,” said the husband of 33 years. “This way, I get to do just that.”



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