As I get older, my eyesight gets more and more of my attention. I was the only member of my family who never needed corrective eyewear – and because of that, I took my good eyesight for granted.
Overbay andy
Extension Agent / Virginia Cooperative Extension
Andy Overbay holds a Ph.D. in ag education and has 40-plus years of dairy and farming experience.

My father had especially poor eyesight, and our farm’s longtime friend and employee, Dean, needed glasses as well. I adapted to their sight deficiencies over the years, to the point where I could predict what they were seeing and make adjustments that helped them.

An example of one such adjustment involved backing up to an implement’s tongue to drop a hitch pin. Dean would pull his glasses off to “see” better, and I learned to watch for the far end, bottom side of the drawbar to peek through the implement hitch to stop the tractor. Worked every time.

Dean and Dad are both gone now, and so most times I am left to watch out for myself. Luckily, there is some help from technology in this area. The new pickup I drive (well, honestly, it’s 2 years old – but it is still new to me) has what seems like a dozen cameras all over its chassis, and none are handier than the two that overlook the hitches, both bumper and gooseneck.

It’s funny how those little things you might ordinarily dismiss as an expensive luxury become “must-haves” once we have gotten used to their presence. Years ago, I would have said I could get in and out of the truck several times for what a good camera system on a new truck would cost. Now, as my eyesight fades a bit and my joints stiffen a bit more, I not only think a good camera system is a need, but a monitor big enough to see the camera’s shot is also essential.


Brighter lighting is also more of a need, for many reasons and in many places. I really should have bought stock in LED lighting years ago. I have replaced or am replacing nearly every bulb or lamp on the farm with LEDs when I get the chance.

Even my old trouble light got an upgrade. An added benefit to having an LED in a trouble light is: They don’t give trouble (pardon the pun). For years, Dad paid a premium for “rough service” incandescence light bulbs to withstand the drops and blows of being a trouble light in our farm shop. As many of you know, this never worked. I had bulbs blow as soon as power was switched on.

A little over 10 years ago, I thought I’d try an LED bulb in the trouble light. I found the brightest one I thought would fit inside the protective cage of the fixture and screwed it in. That same bulb is still working today. I thought it might have failed last week, but it turned out it was just loose.

Not only is the brightness of the light important, but the placement is more of an issue as well. While I seek more bright lights, glare is now a growing problem as well. My truck has lights on the mirrors that illuminate the side of the truck when hooking up to a trailer. They are really nice until I try to make my way back to the driver’s seat. Those little boogers will knock your eyes out … literally.

Not all glare is caused by an overabundance of light, however. Dust, dirt and moisture on glass can be just as blinding. I love my cab tractors, especially in the winter. Having a cozy cab to deflect the cold wind and rain or snow is another example of a luxury that has drifted over into the “need” category.

While a cab is comfortable, sitting in a glass box also means you need to maintain the glass for optimum visibility. Sometimes the best weapon in the arsenal is simply a water hose. Dust buildup combined with a just-right angle of sun rays can leave me guessing where the obstacles are as I drive, which is never recommended.

Just the other day, I was backing my smaller cab tractor into the shed when the sun and the dust on the right side of the cab glass had me gambling where the post was as I backed the tractor back into its shed bay. As soon as I reached the shade of the building and removed the glare from the dusty glass, my visibility returned, but think how dangerous those few moments of blindness would be if a child or grandchild was standing or playing nearby? It makes me cringe just to think about the consequences.

The next day, even though rain was in the forecast and I really did not have a chore for the cab tractors to do, they both got baths with special attention given to cleaning the glass.

Along that theme, I have discovered some products that allow for a ceramic coating to be applied to the glass of my cars, trucks and tractors. These products not only repel rainwater as I drive but also make it more difficult for dust and other glare-producing particles to cling to the glass. These products
are not inexpensive, but their assistance in keeping my machines cleaner and safer make them well worth the cost.

Yep, to see and be seen might be viewed as vanity in Hollywood, but on the farm it really is a matter of life and death.

See, be seen and be safe. end mark

Photo by Mike Dixon

Andy Overbay holds a Ph.D. in ag education and has more than 40 years of hands-on dairy and farming experience.