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Raising Kids on the Farm

I recently saw a Facebook Post written by one of the popular Agvocates (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who it was that wrote it) talking about raising kids on the farm, chores, responsibilities, and allowances.

One of the questions asked was, “Should farm kids get paid to do chores?”. The comments section was exploding with opinions on this topic, answers were landing all over the board. Whether you think they should get paid monetarily or not doesn’t matter to me and each family is different. What I think we can all agree on however, is the lessons learned on the farm will take those kids further in life than some chore money ever will.

I make it no secret that I did not grow up on a farming operation. My father was a police officer, my mother was a paramedic and now a rural route mail carrier. Both were farm kids growing up, we lived on an acreage and I was raised in a manner similar to their own upbringing. We had rocks to pick and weeds to pull, buildings to maintain and construct, groves to clean up, trees to trim, the list goes on for miles and I was expected to pull my own weight. In addition to that some of my closest friends were farm kids were I was always willing to help out when visiting and I spent a considerable amount of time with my Grandparents in the summer on the farm. I learned a lot over the years about what it means to put in a hard days work, taking pride in a job well done, and always finishing a project that gets started.
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I am of the opinion that there is no better up bringing for a kid than on a farm. Children learn early on that everyone has responsibilities and a job to do before fun time begins, how to troubleshoot and fix a problem, working on a budget,how to help each other, and so much more. These traits are not only learned but become engrained in them, traits that shape who they are as a person. Life on the farm teaches so many life skills that it would be impossible to list them all.

These skills and traits stay with a person their whole lives, whether they stay on the farm or not. I spoke to an employer once about the perfect type of employee, he told me that when he is looking over resumes if he spots a candidate that was a member of 4-H or FFA or mentioned growing up on a farm, the resume goes towards the top of the stack. He said in his experiences employees that were raised on a farm have a better work ethic, better problem solving skills, more eager to do a job and do it well, and were almost always great team players.

I think we can all agree we want what is best for our kids and it is this sort of upbringing that can fix part of the troubles in society today. If you are raising a family on the farm I give you a pat on the back. It may not be easy, but in the long haul it will all be worth it in the end.

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 😜

Farmer Ingenuity

It is no secret that farmers may be the most resourceful bunch you’ll ever meet. Sometimes they are just trying to create a quick fix to an issue to get by until a more permanent solution can be done, other times they look at something and figure they can build it themselves cheaper, and yet other times it is just for the enjoyment of doing something themselves.

I recently saw a picture of a 4020 John Deere tractor powered by a Deutz engine (for those who don’t know, in the John Deere world this sort of thing is sometimes considered an unforgivable sin), completely farmer done. Now, I don’t know his reasoning for this project, I imagine it had to do with having a tractor that needed and an engine, and an engine waiting to be put to use, but in any case you have to admire the amount of work done to get the finished product he wanted.
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I even know a couple of guys who have built scrapers for skid loaders out of scrap steel and old rubber tracks for pushing manure or snow. Farmers everywhere have been converting, modifying, and even building machinery to fit their needs. A quick google search will find you multiple home made tractors, tractors linked together, home made attachments, etc. In fact some of these farmer inventions have gone on to be mass produced, not only being sold to bigger manufacturers but also independently.

This ingenuity doesn’t just stop at big machinery, every day farmers find creative ways to solve smaller problems. I know a man who was sick of gates being left open and unlatched by kids and visitors on his livestock farm, he solved this problem by making nearly all his gates on his farm, self-closing and self-latching with the use of some scrap steal and some old springs out of a junk pile. I’ve seen home made wire unwinders to assist in repairing or replacing barbed wire fencing that attached to a tractor, skid loader, ATV, etc. I guarantee you could stop by any farm in America and find at least a couple farmer-built gadgets or gizmos to help make their life easier.

We’d love to hear from you, whats your favorite farm invention, gadget, or thing-ma-jig?

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.

The Importance of Carpet Farming

If you grew up on a farm or around a farm or in a rural area you likely have fond memories of farming several thousand acres on the floors of your bedroom, kitchen, living room, hall ways, and even some custom work for a neighbor over in the bathroom. You likely had some of the newest equipment of your favorite color. There were probably times you had to beg your sister for some pasture space in her room for your newest heifers.

At times I see kids tearing across the floor combining corn or baling hay and I’d give nearly anything to be able to go back to those days when a trip with Mom or Dad to the local farm store or implement dealer meant a chance to hopefully bring home another piece of equipment for MY farm. My birthday, Christmas, and sometimes Easter usually meant I’d get at least one new addition for the farm.
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Carpet farming taught me as well as other kids some very important lessons over the years. A large part of that state of the art machinery I had was purchased with my own money and I learned early the importance of saving for what I wanted and budgeting expenses accordingly. I also learned what it felt like to beg the banker (Mom and Dad) to spot me the money that I PROMISED to pay back (I wonder how many of those promises I actually made good on). I still remember the first time I learned about sales tax. I was at the Clay County Fair and though my farm was primarily green, a toy booth had a New Holland tractor and implement, I think a ripper, and for some reason I thought I needed that for an upgrade. I happily went to the check out counter and bought my newest equipment, after walking back to where I was meeting my parents I realized the change I received wasn’t correct, or so I thought. I failed to realize we had to pay sales tax, boy that was a shock.
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I’m sure you all have similar memories and lessons learned from those days. We also shouldn’t forget how much fun a kid has when his/her parents, grandparents, or any adult really, gets down on the floor and plays along. Kiddos love that, especially if you let them be farm manager. You may be amazed at how much fun your having yourself, that is until you try to get up and those old knees are stiffened up.

To all my Carpet Farmers out there; Farm ON!

National Ag Week

As you probably already know this week (March 13-19) is National Ag Week. Today I’ve noticed a number of posts on social media thanking farmers. This of course is great, but I want to make sure everyone remembers that National Ag Week isn’t just to show appreciation to farmers but all those involved in agriculture.

What many don’t realize is that it takes a great number of people to keep up with the world’s demand for the products we produce. Team work is truly needed for all of us to succeed in this rapidly changing industry, if one wheel falls off the whole car comes to a halt. Farmers and ranchers rely on everyone from truck drivers to veterinarians, agronomists to mechanics, sales people to hired help, advisors of all variety and most of all the farm/ranch families. This week is truly for all of us involved in agriculture.

Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer of over 23 million people, and in 2010 the U.S. exported more than $115 billion worth of agricultural products. These figures go to show how much impact each and every one us make to not only the nation, but to everyone around world. Give yourselves a huge pat on the back!

 

Support Your Local FFA

Learning to Do,
 Doing to Learn,
 Earning to Live,
 Living to Serve.

This one phrase consisting of only 12 words have stuck with me long after my FFA Career ended. As a Sophmore in high school I decided to join FFA. My only regret is not joining as a Freshman. I learned very valuable lessons in FFA throughout those 3 years that are beyond the contents of a text book. Like all good high school agriculture programs, we learned about soil science, plant health, animal science, meat and milk production, and much more. Those lessons are important for aspiring farmers and those pursuing careers in agriculture but that just barely scratches the surface of FFA. FFA taught us all about life skills that I will forever carry with me including public speaking and giving presentations, problem solving, research skills, interview skills, leadership, organization, teamwork, and servitude.

My local FFA Chapter, Okoboji FFA, does a great job of giving back to the community. The community supports the chapter throughout the year by partaking in various fundraising events including fruit sales, an antique tractor ride, donations for an annual auction, the chapter pumpkin patch, and more. Okoboji FFA then uses those funds to purchase equipment or materials for the shop, and send students to district, state, and national events. Every year the chapter strives to give back to the community by donating fruit to the elderly, trash pickup on a stretch of Highway 71, present a series of Farm Safety demonstrations to elementary students, educate non-farming folks about agriculture, and many more projects and events.

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FFA is more than just showing livestock at the local fair and working on tractors. I encourage you to support your local FFA Chapter. We all need to be thinking of the future of agriculture, especially when so many of our practices seem to be under attack by the mis-informed. I urge you all to go out to the next event you see that your local chapter is hosting. If you can and wish to, donate to either your local chapter, or to the National FFA Organization. The next time you see students sporting the National Blue and Corn Gold remember that FFA is much bigger than livestock and corduroy.