From the Farm:

Brotherly Love: A Farmer’s Fight for Melanoma Prevention

Blog by Deb Ohlde, Central Kansas Corn Crew Representative

Can’t hide it, I grew up in the era when many tractors didn’t have cabs. I worked ground, raked and baled hay – sometimes in a swimsuit top to get a tan. And before I was old enough to be useful, I remember spending quite a bit of time on the tractor with my dad; I rode on the fender because buddy seats hadn’t been invented yet. He always reminded me to hang on tight. That is probably a whole other blog, possibly titled, “What Were They Thinking?” Times change.

Last spring during planting season, I visited Adam Baldwin, Kansas farmer from Inman. I was pretty excited because I knew my visit would involve a meeting in his mobile office aka the tractor. I’d be comfortable in the buddy seat of the cab (something not invented yet when I was my dad’s buddy in the field), not out in the sun, wind and dirt on the fender.

Adam pulled up and stopped at the end of the field and climbed down to make some adjustments to the planter.

On Twitter, Adam explained, “I have my don’t get cancer hat, and my don’t look stupid going into town hat.” He encourages other farmers to do the same to protect themselves from sun damage that can lead to cancer. He also encourages everyone who spends many hours of the day outside to get regular skin cancer screenings.

It was HOT that day, I was sweating, secretly wishing I had on shorts. Adam wore long sleeves, a boonie (wide-brimmed) hat and long pants. This look was a bit outside the norm.  Maybe I looked at him a bit odd or he was still adjusting to his new look, but whatever the reason he felt compelled to explain.

At this time, Adam had recently attended the funeral of his fraternity brother Zeb Larson.  Zeb left behind a beautiful family when he lost his battle with Melanoma.  Sadly, he lost the fight quickly with little time to cram in a lifetime of memories with his children. But like all great dads, he made a difference in their life.  He also made a difference in the lives of several of his fraternity brothers, including Adam.

“Zeb and I grew up in neighboring towns competing against each other in 4-H and we were in the same fraternity in college, but we ran in slightly different circles. It wasn’t until after college that we really connected. He was working in grain merchandising and crop insurance while beginning his transition to return to his family farm. I was farming and selling seed, so he looked to me for agronomic advice as he transitioned his dad’s farm to no-till and I was able to gain valuable market knowledge from him. Zeb also had managed a small coop and the insight he learned about business from that venture was valuable information he shared with me.”

“A lesson that Zeb taught and one I often reflect on is about what business we are in. We were talking about hauling corn and shipping rates, and he told me once you buy a truck you aren’t a farmer with a truck you need the mindset that you are in the shipping business. Zeb carried that through to his personal life, as Zeb and Megan grew their family you could see that he was very much invested and successful in being in the “Dad business” and being a loving husband and father. Farmers spend a lot of time in the sun and while we make sure the guards and shields are on our equipment how many of us make sure we are wearing sunscreen and a full brimmed hat to guard against the sun?. I know I didn’t until after Zeb’s diagnosis. Now I have sunscreen in every vehicle, several wide brimmed hats, and try and wear long sleeved fishing shirts throughout the summer. I feel like after Zeb’s untimely passing and my personal awaking to risks of skin cancer not taking these precautions would be disrespectful to Zeb’s memory and my family as well.”

Adam is honoring his fraternity brother’s legacy by sharing the message that even farmers need to take care of themselves.  Adam is avoiding sun exposure and telling Zeb’s story so others will also respect the sun.   Adam doesn’t want a farmer’s tan, he wants to be there to farm with his family for decades.

Adam and Kim Baldwin out celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their first meeting…..and looking forward to many more years together.

His commitment is appreciated by his wife, Kim Ray Baldwin. “Skin cancer is a real concern for me as I have witnessed family members and friends suffer. Knowing Adam spends so much time outside, I’ve always pushed him to use sunscreen and stay covered. It wasn’t until Zeb’s diagnosis though that Adam made major changes in protecting himself while farming and being outside.”

The world needs all the farmers it can get, for that reason, Adam will continue to embrace his new fashion statement.   For more information about melanoma including guidance on prevention and warning signs, visit https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma.

You can find Adam on Twitter @iamyourfarmer.  Kim is also active on social media and has a blog which she shares on Facebook called Alive and Well in Kansas, where she chronicles life on the farm.