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Agvocate or Aggravate?

If you are reading this, it is likely you read other agricultural and farming blogs as well so you may have noticed this “trend” that I will be discussing. There are more and more people writing blogs, social media posts, etc advocating for agriculture (agvocate). While having additional people working to bring awareness to agriculture and farming we need to be careful how we are going about it. I’ve recently noticed a spike in the amount of anger displayed in Blogs, Facebook postings, Tweets, etc. Remember we are trying to Agvocate not Aggravate our audience.

I 100% understand that many times these postings are written in response to something and you are angry, but to the non-farming community you can easily seem like a mean, cruel person with anger issues. This is not how we should be promoting a cause we feel so strongly about. It is due to these strong feelings about our way of life that we allow these emotions to take over our work, but at what cost? I also get fired up when a company/corporation condemns GMO’s or herbicide use, when a politician proposes legislation without understanding the entire impact, when the major news media mostly ignores the wildfires that destroyed so much, but anger isn’t always the best delivery method of your message.

Of course that angry blog post reaches a lot of readers and that video rant posted on Facebook gets a couple thousand views and a few hundred shares, but it is usually the farming community reading and watching these posts, sharing with their friends and families, people that already understand where you are coming from. We as whole, need to do a better job taking a step back and a deep breath before trying to agvocate. As we strive to educate the public about all things ag. related, lets make sure we carry ourselves as professionally as possible so our audience is more likely to listen and understand without believing we are all angry, crazy people.

Mud Slinging

Yesterday I received an email in response to an online advertisement we’ve been running regarding the Agrovantage Crop Management products. This individual wanted a little more information which I gave him. Shortly thereafter I receive a simple one sentence reply, “My fertilizer rep with XYZ (I’ll leave out the company) says your stuff is junk”.

Now while I, multiple growers across all 50 states, and several yield champions would disagree with that statement I knew there was really nothing more to say to this individual as his mind was made. What annoyed me most about the situation is the blantant disrespect from a fellow salesman in the industry. It is unfortunate that this sort of thing happens, and seems to be happening more often, not just to me but industry wide.

I don’t speak for XYZ fertilizer company and I wish they wouldn’t speak for me. The same goes for seed dealers, soil sampling companies, etc. I make it a rule to never bad mouth or sling mud at the competition. However I’m not afraid to tell you that Green tractors are better than red 😜

This Old Barn

There is something about America’s old barns that keep me captivated. I don’t know if it is the old architecture, the real dimension lumber, the history, or the smells but I can’t resist exploring these old landmarks dotting the landscape.

It is amazing to me to think that 100+ years ago family and friends came together to build these important buildings, some times before the farm home was even built. Hand sawn, hand nailed, and without the advantage of cranes, telehandlers, and other modern equipment.

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One of my favorite barns is the old “horse barn” at the farm where my mother was raised. Not only did countless animals take shelter in that big barn but it was an intergal part of the lives of 5 generations with the 6th generation just getting old enough to show interest. It has been in the family since it was first built so many years ago. A walk through that barn is like a step into the past, built by Irish immigrants with repairs and changes made throughout the course of time to suite the needs of the current generation of farmers. Today it stands tall, with new tin on the front and sides and mostly used for storage, and as a tribute to those who worked the ground before us.

Preseverving these old barns is as important to me as teaching our kids history in school. They all have their own unique story to tell. Some of those stories are of heartbreak and tragedy and some of pure joy. Not only do I urge you to go explore an old barn if given the chance but go talk to the oldest member of the family about it. You may learn more than you ever dreamt you would.

#Harvest16 Photo-Recap

Late this past fall we asked our Facebook Followers to submit some #Harvest16 pictures. We had submissions from all over the U.S. We figured with all the wintery gloom now was a good time to put them all together for you. Thanks to all who submitted!

Elephants or Donkeys?

The end is in sight, at least I think it is. Yes, I’m talking about the election, the day that we find out how many people lied about moving to Canada. I know just about everyone is ready for this to be over and sick and tired of the election that has been dragging on for what seems like an eternity.

I was very recently asked, “Are you voting for the Elephants or Donkeys this year?”. I admit it took me a second to understand the question, Republican or Democrat, Right or Left. Well as I stood there wondering how I was going to get myself out of yet another pointless political debate, where neither side agrees, and just gets irritated, the answer struck me like a 2×4 across the head. I replied “Elephants or Donkeys? I think I’ll just stick with cows”

Case IH Robo-Tractor

As you probably are already well aware, CNH Global revealed their new autonomous tractor concept. They have been showcasing both the cabless Case IH version as well as a cabbed New Holland model. These tractors have been paraded around the country to some of the biggest farm shows around, but are these tractors really a look at our immediate future? Well here is my take.

If you are like me the announcement of the Robo-Tractor, as I like to call it, made you cringe. I just can not imagine a world where the tractors did the work with no operator. It seems to go against our agricultural legacy. However, we all should know by now that new and improved technologies emerge every day and this Robo-Tractor wasn’t exactly a huge surprise to me.

Personally, I don’t see this Robo-Tractor coming to a farm near you anytime soon. For one, this big reveal was not a new model or product announcement, it wasn’t meant to show you what will be on every dealer lot next year, this is only to show you what they are working on and what the future of farm machinery COULD look like. These autonomous tractors as well as their new slogan are nothing more than a marketing gimmick to try to boost sales for CNH.
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The public’s opinion on these machines is less than optimistic based on everyone I’ve talked to and numerous articles written about it. Most farmers just aren’t ready for the day where they spend less time out of the tractor and more time in an office. Many farmers have pointed out the obvious pitfalls of such a machine, such as it not detecting a wet spot that a human operator may have been able to avoid or problems with the implements hooked behind the tractor, it does you no good if you have to drive out to the field 8 times  to fix or adjust a piece of equipment. Roadability is a big concern, in the video released by CNH they mentioned it being able to travel to the field on its own on private roads and paths. That doesn’t always work real well in some parts of the country where you are more often than not moving machinery on public roadways. There is a real concern of price. We can only speculate now, but everyone is guessing these tractors will be very, very, very expensive, higher than tractors are already.

I believe the version of the Case IH tractor they revealed will be a flop if ever released in that form. It isn’t versatile enough to be of much use to the average farm. The New Holland version they are showing however, could have some success as it still has a cab as well as a user friendly operating station like our current tractors and is meant to be easily used either driverless or with an operator. The only way I see very many of either version being sold is if big corporations buy them in an effort to reduce labor. I’m talking the farms that the owner or share holder owners don’t make any real day to day decisions but are there to manage the finances and try to collect a healthy profit for themselves. These are people that have likely never farmed or even stepped foot on the place they own.

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Quite frankly, I don’t like this thing and I share the same views and opinions of many others. I believe it will cost to much, not necessarily make life or work any easier, and the cost of repairs will be horrendous. I also see almost zero benefit to the average farmer. We already have GPS guidance systems and auto-steer to help us out, what will this thing do that we can’t already do? If I own a piece of equipment I prefer a human to accompany said equipment in case there are any issues. I don’t want to be tied to my computer or smart phone any more than I already am. If I send an employee out to the field with a tractor to do some tillage I know that he/she will only call me if there is a question or issue, and other than that I know the machine is in good hands. If I send a Robo-Tractor to the field to do some tillage I have to periodically check on it with my computer, tablet, or phone thus limiting the amount of work I can get done myself. I don’t like the idea that this computerized abomination can possibly put people out of a job. I am frustrated with the fact that CNH is trying to come across as leaders of unmarked territory, when in fact there are companies already producing autonomous tractors as well as converting existing tractors to be fully autonomous. I’ll give them credit on that paint scheme though.

Do I believe the autonomous tractor will eventually make its way into every day farm life? Of course I do, but I think we are still a ways off from that happening. I think the agriculture economy will have to improve drastically before many people even consider purchasing such a machine. I also believe that the technology still has growing to do before that day arrives.

What the New World Record Soybean Yield Means to Soybean Growers

There has been a lot of talk since Randy Dowdy broke the soybean world record with a yield  of 171.8 bushel per acre. Dowdy is also a former corn world record holder as well. When talking with growers and various people involved in agriculture following this record there seems to be two groups that people fall into, I’ve labeled them the “Overly Optimistics” and the “Soybean Bummers”.

The Overly Optimistics are all people that believe that now that we know soybeans can produce nearly 172 bpa that it means in the very near future we will all be well above 100 bpa for farm averages on beans. I admire the enthusiasm of the people in this group though I think they are a bit off the mark to assume we will all be growing 100 bushel soybeans.

The Soybean Bummers are the people who come up with every reason to be upset or unimpressed at this feat. They claim it only happened due to perfect weather. I’ve heard the “well it was only on a couple of acres” line. I’ve also heard “I bet he spent more producing them then they are worth” line. They believe that this has no bearing whatsoever on the their farm or the farms of anyone they know and should be ignored. While the Soybean Bummers may not be completely wrong necessarily, they aren’t completely right either.
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My take on the record is that it is overall great news for progressive thinking growers. I have listened and spoke to numerous yield champs not only growing soybeans but corn, milo, wheat, etc. I have spoke with former soybean world record holder Kip Cullers, I’ve listened to many NCGA champs including Jerry Cox. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to listen or speak with any of these highly successful growers to do so. What I’ve heard these guys say time and time again is that these contest plots and fields may not always be the most economical on their farm but the knowledge they gain from doing them is invaluable. Don’t take this to literally however, just because something worked for Joe the farmer in Kansas and he topped corn or soybean yields doesn’t mean it will work for a Steve the farmer in Ohio.

So, no I don’t know the cost of inputs on this 171.8 bpa soybeans but I do know that due to this yield we learn more about the soybean plant than we knew before. Yield contest plots are a great source of experimentation and research. These plots often lead to new or improved practices and techniques for raising crops as well as new products. So whether you are a Soybean Bummer or a Overly Optimistic remember that we can all learn from this record yield and help improve our own bottom line.