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I wish I had this in school

My Take: A precision ag simulator can be a great tool to teach our next aggies.

Chris Torres, Editor, American Agriculturist

August 16, 2023

3 Min Read
A driving simulator set up with a screen and steering wheel
SIMULATOR: The Raven simulator comprises two essential components of Raven technology: the Viper 4+, Raven’s in-cab display, and the RS1 — Raven’s three-in-one GPS, connectivity and autosteer sensor. Photos by Chris Torres

I make no secret of the fact that I didn’t grow up on a farm. I only fell in love with the business after I graduated college in the mid-2000s.

But I would have benefited from a little farm immersion when I was younger. If only I had known about modern agriculture back then, who knows where I would have ended up? Maybe I would have been a mechanic or precision ag technician. Maybe I would have gotten into food sciences. Heck, maybe I would have become a farmer!

I can’t turn back the clock, but I know enough about the business now that I can recognize a good thing when I see it, especially when it comes to teaching our next generation of ag leaders and farmers.

Case in point, I was recently invited to Messick’s Equipment in Mount Joy, Pa., for the presentation of a precision ag simulator to Cedar Crest High School’s FFA chapter by New Holland and Raven. The simulator, complete with Raven’s Viper 4+ display and RS1, the company’s three-in-one precision ag sensor, is one of 11 being donated to schools and FFA chapters across the country. Cedar Crest FFA got the first one.

Hundreds of schools applied for the simulators last year, and the winners were selected earlier this year. They are being shipped to schools in time for the start of the new school year.

Ben Sheldon, who manages Raven’s independent sales channels, says the simulators are being donated to help students better understand modern agriculture and to see technology farmers use every day. The company is providing learning modules — the same modules provided to dealers and dealer tech staff — free to each school with a simulator.

Phil Haussener, the Cedar Crest FFA advisor, says the simulator will be a great fit for his classrooms, albeit for different reasons. He estimates that 90% of the 180 students enrolled in agricultural classes at the high school come from a non-ag background. For those non-aggies, a simulator like this will really be eye-opening to what modern agriculture is all about.

I always find technology like this eye-opening — and really cool — when I go to Farm Progress Show, and I’ve been covering this stuff for several years. Imagine how eye-opening this will be for someone who has never seen it.

For his ag students, Haussener sees it as a way for them to see how advanced precision ag has become and how it can help a farmer be more efficient and environmentally sound.

He also sees it as a way to improve his own teaching. For example, he thinks the simulator could make a topic such as Integrated Pest Management more tangible for his students.

However it is used, I hope the school makes good use out of it. We need to teach new generations of aggies about modern agriculture and open their eyes to career opportunities.

A simulator isn’t the real thing, but it’s close enough. I just wish I would have had this in my classroom.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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