Farm Progress

You face two challenges — teaching your children to use today’s sophisticated technologies and educating urbanites who have no clue.

July 11, 2017

3 Min Read
FITS TO A ‘T’: This T-shirt, worn to the recent Farming for Success field research day, nicely sums up the importance of farmers and agriculture to consumers.

In recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting seven outstanding farm families ranging from western New York to Eastern Shore Maryland. At every farm, I’ve been reminded of the incredible amount of detail and know-how skills required by today’s farming. This from a former farmer just trying to stay abreast of it all.

But how can you “train up” farm kids on today’s machinery technologies? This question came up on several of the farms.

When I was 12 years old, that was no problem. Dad wanted me to learn to cultivate corn and beans on 20-inch rows. So he put me on a skinny-tired John Deere A with a top speed of maybe 4 mph. I learned the skill along with humbleness and patience in the painfully slow process.

Fast-forward to today. “We can’t put my 12-year-old out there on a 175-hp tractor pulling a 30-foot-wide implement or even a big manure tank,” noted one farmer. “He can pick up on the nuances of GPS and RTK quicker than I can, but we can’t risk mistakes or the cost of those mistakes with big expensive machines. So what’s the answer?”

One farmer’s son bought a drone that took awesome photos — until it crashed. It was supposed to automatically soft-land when the battery ran low. The boy was “grounded” until landing gear parts arrived — another lesson in finances.

So how are you training up your kids on today’s technologies? Please share your thoughts by emailing me at [email protected].

Narrow that rural-urban gap
Urbanites have even fewer clues about the skills required to farm today. Imagine, for instance, trying to teach them about the math (ration balancing), science (heat detection) and technology (robotics and inline bacterial data analysis) dairy farms use to produce high-quality milk. Their eyes would glaze over, and they’d resort to texting.

Imagine trying to teach them about operating the electronic technologies on today’s tractors — and how to diagnose problems on the machines they pull. They’d be fascinated — for that first minute.

People of rural persuasion are increasingly sending their next-gens to college. And from what I’ve seen, today’s generation is far better at parenting than previous generations. So, no wonder there’s a rural-urban divide — in time, work, family values and business mentality — that shapes our thinking and political preferences.

This is what’s contributing to the growing rural-urban gap — that invisible fence separating radically different cultural values that I wrote about back in February. See "50 miles outside of … is a whole different climate."

In June, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey confirmed this rural-urban cultural gap. You might find it interesting: Check out "The Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post Survey of Rural America."

The survey didn’t turn up surprising information — at least to rural communities. For instance, it found that rural areas have higher rates of self-employed business proprietors than metro areas. And the more rural the county, the higher its level of entrepreneurship.

Resilience of rural start-up businesses is also 10% higher than in metro areas. That resilience is likely due to more cautious — conservative — business practices.

Bite-sized morsel
Our government leaders serve for all of us — not just for Republicans, Democrats or independents, and certainly not just for themselves. Remind them; even pray for them.

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