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Technology

Picture A Modern Farmer

The AgWired team has been busy at the Farm Progress Show, so I’ve been reading, writing, and posting lots of information about everything new in agriculture.  I’ve been wading through information about ag app developers, tweeting John Deere’s newest tractor capabilities, and watching drones take flight.  Which got me thinking.

Despite being eighty-five years old, American Gothic is too often the picture that comes to mind when you mention “farmer.”

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

It would be harder to find something farther from the truth.  In fact, today’s farmers use as much technology as anyone in Silicon Valley.  Let me try to paint that picture for you.

We call it “precision farming.”  First, you might hire a company to come to your field and mark it off in a grid.  A bit of soil is taken from every square on the grid, carefully recorded and tracked.  These soil samples are then sent to a science lab and tested.

A picture of today's modern farmer

It’s then possible to take the maps with those results and upload them to a device in your tractor.  The right kind of equipment can read those maps as the tractor drives through the field and make changes in the amount of fertilizer placed in each grid square so you put on exactly what is needed.  The same idea can happen as you’re planting– putting more seeds in good soil and fewer on thinner ground.

GPS and auto-steer mean the tractor can drive along its path by satellite, with less than one inch of error along the way.  GPS also lets the planter know where it’s been and each row can shut off as the equipment drives over a spot that has already been planted.  Expect the same for the machine that sprays crop protection products over the field.  Automatic shut-off means no waste, no excess.

planter

As the plants grow, farmers can now keep a watchful eye on disease and pests that might ruin a crop with the use of an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) or drone.  Or a livestock farmer may use a drone to check cattle grazing on large acreages.

drone

Monitors right in the field can let a farmer know when an irrigation system needs to be turned on, most likely through an alert on his phone.  The farmer can often turn the water on from his phone too.  Fruit and tree growers have access to the same smartphone technology to alert for frost, and animal farmers can check their barns while sitting at a soccer game.

And then there’s harvest.  Combines create maps as they move across the field, recording the yield as it goes along.  These maps can be overlaid with spring planting maps for even more information.  All of that may be tracked with another app from a smartphone.

Modern agriculture is a long way from pitchforks and overalls.

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GMO Testing

Apparently I’m just stubborn enough to continue on with an idea, even after protest that readers don’t want simple, easy-to-swallow facts to make food choices!

I guess I just think maybe simple is good. 🙂

simple, easy-to-swallow facts for making food choices

Or maybe I just like playing with typography.

Whichever.

Categories: Food, Quick Fact, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Are GMOs Used?

Want simple, straight-forward information about your food?  Me too.  So here it is.  No homework necessary, just one, easy fact about GMOs and why a farmer might choose to use them.

One simple fact about GMOs and why a farmer might choose to use them. {www.DaddysTractor.com}

Today’s post has been brought to you by the letters G, M, and O, and by the number 8.

It has also been brought to you by, Common Ground.  Check them out for more straight talking answers.

Categories: Food, Quick Fact, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

How GMO Labeling could Help Monsanto

If GMOs are safe, why is Monsanto so opposed to labeling them on food products?  Shouldn’t we have a choice about what we buy?

How labeling GMOs could help Monsanto

I hear both of these statements a lot and I think they are valid questions with complicated answers.  I’m just not sure everyone is really interested in the answer.  It has to do with food costs and consumer awareness and government regulations and lots of other stuff I’d be happy to go into in another post.  For now, lets focus on a not-so-obvious reason labeling GMOs might not be as good for us as we think.

One common misconception I’d like to debunk is that Monsanto is the only company creating GMO products.  In reality there are many companies trying to compete in the free market for a share of the sales created by this technology.  Monsanto is just the most well-known, certainly the most hated.

Currently each of the companies I linked to is busy hiring the best and brightest, dreaming up new technology, and testing those products over and over and over to make them the best products on the market.  It’s how business works.

How Labeling GMOs could help Monsanto

But what happens when businesses are asked to jump through hoop after hoop of red tape?  Costs go up.  Efficiency goes down.  Business are hurt.  Some companies even close their doors.

Currently Monsanto is the leader when it comes to new crop technologies.  I’ve seen the hallway where they hang their patents; there are some seriously bright people working there.

So when it comes to weathering the storm of regulation, whose in a position to do it best?  I’d guess the leader will manage to come out ahead.  And the other companies?  Well, maybe they’ll survive.

How labeling GMOs could help Monsanto

Any maybe its just me, but I like to think the free-market works best for everyone involved.  The more companies there are producing products the more likely I am to get a fair price.  The more companies there are creating car-safety and testing crash dummies the more likely I am to survive an accident.

So if you’d like your food to be affordable and safe, maybe labeling is actually the wrong way to go about it.

Just a thought.

And here’s another in the back of my mind.  Currently if you want a product that contains no trans-fat or artificial flavors you look for a big circle that declares your kids fruit snacks to be “free of artificial flavors.”  If you want your food to be GMO free you already have labels like the “Non GMO Project Verified” symbol, or “USDA Organic” seal.  These choices are already available.

Maybe we’ve been focusing on the wrong label.

Categories: Food, Technology | 4 Comments

This Situation is Critical!

It’s literally the most important thing that happens on our farm and it’s happening now!  Just ask the little red hen, if you want to eat the bread, first you have to plant the seeds!

Planting time on the farm

Our Case IH tractor pulls a John Deere planter– proof that it can be done! 🙂

Planting time is the most intense season on the farm.  There are an estimated 10 days that are just right for planting corn in our area.  Even if we had perfect conditions (which we won’t) and no break downs (that won’t happen either!) there is no way we could plant all our corn in 10 days.  But we try.

Planting time on the farm

Daddy has added lots of Precision Planting parts to the planter, making sure every seed counts!

During the first two days of our planting season the tractor ran around the clock.  Grandpa traded off with Daddy in the middle of the night so Daddy could get a few hours of sleep.

planting time on the farm

Anna helps Daddy check that the planter is working by digging up a row and looking at the seeds.

It’s also not just putting seeds in the ground that is so time-sensetive.  Daddy got out of bed a the usual time the next morning so Grandpa could put on fertilizer and crop protection products, which are every bit as critical.

planting time on the farm

Daddy drove away with a piece of pizza in hand– no time to stop for dinner!

Monsoon-like rains put an end to our field work late Saturday night and this morning there is snow on the ground.  Like I said, we won’t be getting ideal weather!  The weather man says we should be in the mid 60s again in two days with lots of wind as well, so the ground will dry out and we’ll be back in the fields.  While not ideal by any means, the snow shouldn’t stop the seeds from growing once the weather warms up.

Just please weather, do warm up!

Categories: Family, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What Happens in ALOT

Gets published on the Internet!  Sorry guys!  Usually the happenings at the meetings of this hand-picked, higher education class are for the privileged members only, but when you invite a blogger to talk about blogging, well, you have now become public information! 🙂

ALOT (pronounced with a long A, not like the phrase “a lot.”) stands for Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow, and is a two-year class designed to introduce members to a wide variety of ag related topics, businesses, and ideas.  Brian was selected for this latest class and has been across the state visiting an amazing variety of people and places, listening and learning about more topics than I ever dreamed our state could boast.

The group has met Presidents, CEOs, and leaders of some really amazing organizations, so I didn’t know if I should be honored or intimated when the coordinator of the program called Brian and wanted the group to visit Marshall Farms!

ALOT group visits Marshall Farms

The 25 members of the group visited Marshall Farms, providing some incentive to finish multiple projects on this shed!

Brian gave a talking-tour of the farm (since it was 27 degrees when we started– what happened to spring?!), sharing lots of information about the technology we use.  Being in the shed meant we could get a good look at the sprayer and planter.

ALOT visits Marshall Farms

Since members hail from across the state Brian shared practices used in our area to deal with our specific soil and land types.

Then Dennis, Brian’s dad and “Grandpa” here on the blog, went into some detail about the soil conservation practices we follow.  Dennis has been an early adaptor of conservation for the last 35 years he has been in business as a farmer and he is still trying new ideas.  The most recent practice has been the addition of cover crops (read about that here), including some brand new cover crop mixtures we’ve just tried for the first time.

ALOT class visits Marshall Farms

If you’ve ever wondered what a farm “nerd” sounds like you should have heard the conversation between Dennis and the class as they discussed the chemical make-up of soil-LOL!

Then those poor class members had to listen to me tell about my experiences blogging and how I try to share agriculture with those interested in where their food comes from.

ALOT visits Marshall Farms

Trivia, I’ve been blogging at Daddy’s Tractor for two years, but before that I blogged at myfamilyfarm.blogspot.com.

The best part was the box of chocolates ALOT gives to each of their presenters.  So as far as I’m concerned ALOT is welcomed back anytime!  As long as you’re okay with being published on the Internet that is!!

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If You Have a Career, Thank a Farmer

If you’re an artist, thank a farmer. If you’re a lawyer or business owner or teacher, thank a farmer. If you work at Wal-Mart, or an animal shelter, or the White House, thank a farmer. Because once upon a time you had two career choices– hunter or gatherer.

Thank a Farmer

Here’s a snapshot of Brian’s mom as a little girl and her Daddy– a farmer.

And then, some enterprising person discovered that you could plant seeds and grow food on purpose and in one place. Some early wanderer domesticated a few sheep or goats and settled down on the banks of a river. It was the beginnings of civilization itself, and it’s all thanks to farming.

Thank a Farmer

This farm was owned by my great, great, uncle.

This week our Farm Bureau is celebrating “Thank a Farmer” week. We talk a lot about how 100% of the people in this country eat food and how America’s farmers provide the safest, most abundant, most affordable food in the world. Which is pretty important stuff. But I was really struck at the American Farm Bureau meeting in San Antonio last month by the head of the USDA, Tom Villsack, when he spoke about the farmer being the cornerstone of civilization, because without someone to grow the food, no one gets to be anything else.

No computer programmers. No engineers. No fashion designers. Not even any McDonald’s employees.

Thank a Farmer

This is Daddy’s Grandpa Tom on the far right, harvesting wheat.

The better farmers get at their jobs, the freer our nation becomes to pursue other avenues. Every advancement in technology means one more kid goes to college to be a writer or opens a garage to build hot rod cars.

My great-grandpa was a police officer.  Benjamin Corner was the first Highway Patrolman in Missouri to give his life in service of his fellow men.

My great-grandpa was a police officer. Benjamin Corner was the first Highway Patrolman in Missouri to give his life in service of his fellow men.

You probably don’t have to look very far back your family tree to find a grandparent or great-grandparent who farmed. When Brian’s grandpa climbed up to the open seat of his combine his hard work provided 20 people with the food they needed, so they could focus on building roads and inventing microwaves. Today, on average, one farmer feeds 155 people. 155 people who can find a cure for cancer or dream up missions to Mars.

Thank a Farmer

This is my mom, visiting her uncle on his farm.

So today, if you dream of a fulfilling career, be glad it isn’t just a filling career, and thank a farmer.

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The one and only, Cheerios

Its only 8:00 AM and I’ve already fought two battles today.  The first I fought with extension cords, bales of straw, and more Carhartt than any person not employed by the company should decently wear at any one time.  The second I’m fighting with a laptop, cell phone, and Instagram account.  It is the battle of public opinion.

Some days you win.  Some days you loose.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

We buy the bulk “2 Box” kind from Sam’s Club.

Modern agriculture recently lost a battle with General Mills, the company behind the one and only, Cheerios.  On January 2nd the company announced we will be seeing new cereal boxes in our grocery story aisles stating that the original Cheerios are now GMO free. This frustrates me on several levels.

First because, as General Mills points out, there are no GMO oats.  The switch involves a small amount of corn starch used in the cooking process and the gram per serving of sugar.  Its a relatively small change on their part that will generate a massive amount of negative opinion on ours.  Definitely frustrating.

Secondly, General Mills themselves states over and over that GMOs are safe.  They link to factsaboutgmos.org, The World Health Organization, The European Food Safety Authority, and the USDA.  But they won’t stand behind this science they apparently believe in.

Third, this Q&A statement from Cheerios mentions “investments” in the new process– places to store the corn starch and sugar etc., and I can’ help but infer that General Mills didn’t do any of this out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather to make a profit.  This leads me to believe that I, as the consumer, will be paying for the “investment” each time I load up my cart at Sam’s Club.  Perhaps my family budget can afford this, but surely you will allow me to stretch my imagination and guess that others cannot.

And this is, perhaps, my greatest frustration.  This is such a first world problem.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

I let my kids pour honey on the original type. Its less sugar than Honey Nut and I used to feel good about letting them eat it.

Only people will full stomachs can be picky about what they put into them.

Mind you, I’m grateful I can be this choosy myself.  I want my kids to have good nutrition, safe food, even adventurous diets.  But what about the mom who just wants her kid to have enough to eat.  Or the mom who wants her kid to have anything to eat.  Because to me, that’s what GMOs are about.  Once they’ve been proven safe, and I’ve done my research and feel they are (Read here and here), GMOs are the ONLY route I can see that leads to full stomachs for a population of some 9 billion people.  Its safe.  Its affordable.  And its possible.  The technology of our past won’t get us there.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

Brett will pick Cheerios over pancakes some days. Whose crazy kid does that?!

So will I keep buying Cheerios?  Dunno.  But I may look around at some different brands and see what my family will eat, because today I feel that General Mills isn’t supporting me and my farm.  They aren’t supporting ag’s efforts to feed the world.  And somehow I think that could have been profitable for them too.

We lost this battle.  The world can’t afford for us to loose the war.

Categories: Food, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Did You Know? Fueling a Combine

There are several reason you won’t see this at your local Casey’s.  Um, very often.

Fueling the combine {DaddysTractor.com}

Obviously, most gas stations have a shelter over the pumps that would seriously get in the way of a piece of equipment this size.  And gas stations tend to be either in towns or along highways and not convenient to slow moving vehicles in fields in remote locations.

So how do you fuel all that harvest equipment?

With your own fuel tank.

Fueling the combine {DaddysTractor.com}

Our farm has those giant fuel barrels filed with dyed fuel (for farm vehicles only), but they stay at the farm’s home base.  This trailer is a newly-traded addition to Daddy’s collection which allows him to haul fuel right to the combine.

So much easier than pulling up to the pump at Quick Trip!!

This trailer has two pumps, just like the ones you’d use to fuel your car– except at little bigger. 😉  They wind up on a hose reel, which is what you see in the photo above.

Fueling the combine {DaddysTractor.com}

The tanks are in the rear of the combine and you have to pull the hoses up the ladder to reach them.  And while some pieces of farm equipment (semis) actually have two diesel tanks, that’s not why you see two hoses in these pictures.

The second, smaller, hose actually fills the combine with something called DEF.  This fluid is the secret to making our red equipment environmentally green. 

(If you’re interested in learning how this combine is reducing emissions into the air, try this previous post.) 

{DaddysTractor.com}

So now you know.  This is why you won’t see tractors or combines in line at the local Conoco.  Very often…

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Preparing for Harvest

Can you feel it?  Smell it?  I’m even beginning to see it.  That unquantifiable element that is fall.  Everyone is pinning pumpkin recipes and buying apple butter at farm stands.  I’m putting off my fall cleaning until, well, maybe spring…  I love living where the seasons change and in one of those inexplicable phenomenons, the upcoming season is usually my favorite.  But who doesn’t love fall?!

Unlike me, the farmers in my family love fall best all year long.  Because fall means harvest.

Preparing for harvest  {DaddysTractor.com}

Brett especially looks forward to harvest all year.  It means long days in the combine –and snacks from Daddy’s magical lunchbox!  He’s so excited about it, in fact, that he begged to help wash the combine like our hired hand, Cory, was doing.  Daddy said he was actually a big help and really did a good job getting the dirt and grime off of the equipment.

Today Daddy will run the combine on the field next to the shed to get the engine hot enough to change oil and hydraulic oil and maybe calibrate the combine to correctly calculate yield.  He’ll set up the monitors, resupply the tool boxes, check the air conditioner, and any other of a thousand odd jobs that are involved in preparing for harvest.

Then tomorrow we begin!

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