They can handle 400 horsepower with a flick of the wrist; know how to treat for ALS-resistant weeds; calculate the break-even yield for each of their fields and crops… in their head; and can master programming a GPS autosteer device with field mapping capability. They are today’s farmers. And they are among the most diverse, determined and sophisticated professionals you will ever meet.
Growing up in a small town on the Western Canadian prairies I spent my entire childhood around farming. In my teens I spent my fair share of time in a grain truck, cleaning out bins or out in the pasture shooting gophers. This is just how we lived. Family and my friends, I took it for granted, it’s just farming. Little did I know…
My first job out of University took me to the cotton belt of the mid-south. Attending ag conferences in the early 1990’s, I was rubbing shoulders with farmers again and surprised to see every conference packed with people in Dockers and buttoned shirts, notepads and calculators. And they were SERIOUS! I spent many hours in the field discussing spray rates, droplet atomization and optimum application speeds, all the while watching them master how to program an application monitor. It was at one of these early conferences that a farmer stumped me by asking if our monitor interfaced with GPS technology. At that time I had not even heard of GPS!
In the early 2000’s I headed back to the upper Great Plains where the education continued. I met a brilliant farmer out of Alberta, MN who stretched my brain with how he establishes the correct crop/acreage mix on his farm to optimize ROI while managing rotation to keep the soil at its healthiest and minimize fertilizer. How he leverages futures, puts and calls to create the greatest opportunity for profit, and the science behind the disease triangle of managing Fusarium head blight in wheat. ONE person, one farmer intensively managing every aspect of the farm.
In 2010 technology is taking us further in agriculture than many ever thought possible. Drought resistant crops, disease resistant plants, self-driving equipment, timed-release fertilizer, variable-rate application, weed-sensing technology, weather prediction models, instantaneous markets reports and more. And you know what? The farmers continue to push the pace. They are studying, learning, mastering and succeeding at being the best farmers in the world. Every conference packed and every field day filled with farmers soaking up knowledge.
What Joe Public doesn’t see is the pride, effort and hard work that goes into being a professional farmer. How many people do you know that can be a veterinarian, engineer, entomologist, pathologist, meteorologist, accountant, mechanic, programmer, parent, coach and church member… all in the same day? This is what farmers do for a living. They feed us and they feed the world. They are North American farmers, and these guys are GOOD!
Dr. Colin N. Clarke is a strategist for AdFarm who monitors the growth trends of agriculture while keeping one foot rooted in its history. Follow him on Twitter @colinnclarke or on Facebook at Facebook.com/cnclarke.
(Photo credit: Pat Scala)