October 14, 2016
Each month, when Prairie Farmer hits my mailbox, my eyes are always drawn to the “since 1841” badge on the masthead. Those two words command a great deal of reverence.
Agriculture has gone through some tremendous changes in these past 175 years. And Prairie Farmer has been there every step of the way. It was there when “latest technology” meant the shift from horses to tractors. It was also there when the biggest technological advances of the day began to occur within an individual plant’s DNA.
175 YEARS: Celebrating Prairie Farmer, 1841-2016
The fact that I played a part in capturing the extraordinary story of agriculture in the pages of this respected magazine is truly humbling. Thank you to all of the readers who took the time each month to tune in. An even bigger thank you to all of the folks who were willing to be interviewed and photographed for the articles I wrote.
I came to Prairie Farmer in 2008. I left in 2015 to pursue a career in public relations. During those seven years, a lot happened in agriculture.
Ethanol and markets
From my perspective, the biggest story during my tenure was ethanol. We watched ethanol grow from adolescent status into a fully mature industry. Along the way, grain prices responded in tremendous fashion, as did land values. Mother Nature tossed in a devastating drought along the way in 2012, just to keep things interesting.
As ethanol matured, traditional corn demand sectors learned to adapt and reinvent themselves. Animal agriculture diligently worked to incorporate distillers grains. South America planted more acres in response to the growth in global demand for corn. And most impressive of all, the American farmer did what he or she always does: responded to market signals and significantly boosted corn production.
As we’re all keenly aware, the market correction is here. Moving forward, being a good producer won’t be enough to continue farming in the U.S. Managing cost of production with respect to those breakeven prices and mitigating risk will all be necessary skills as farmers push through this lull in grain prices.
Sustainability and consumers
Of course, ethanol wasn’t the only big story during my time at Prairie Farmer. Cover crops, minimum tillage, split-nitrogen applications, tiered emission standards for machinery — yep, sustainability now plays a big part in the U.S. farm sector.
As the public becomes more interested in how their food is produced, telling the story of sustainability on the farm is more important than ever.
Speaking of the food-consuming public and agriculture, we have to discuss all those fun production practices that have driven a wedge between conventional agriculture and specialty producers. At some point in my tenure at Prairie Farmer, I referred to those specialty practices as part of the latest in a laundry list of buzzwords that marketers leverage to seek an advantage in the grocery store.
In my old age, my perspective has broadened a bit. Today, I see that a greater portion of consumers than ever before is asking questions about their food. We have many of these specialty producers, especially those involved in the local food movement, to thank for this. This is a good thing!
In the years to come, Prairie Farmer will continue to cover the gap that exists between consumers and farmers. Telling the story of agriculture will be more important than ever. The only difference is, consumers are now asking questions, too. They want to know where their food comes from! I sincerely hope we don’t squander this opportunity.
In closing, I’d like to say thank you to everyone for the opportunity to be a part of the amazing Prairie Farmer history. Every day, I’m grateful that I found my place in the world of ag communications. There is no more noble profession than feeding people. Thank you for allowing me to tell that story.
Flint was Prairie Farmer editor from 2008-15.
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