With panel members ranging from 42 to 89 years old, Jim Mintert received a variety of answers when he asked the 2021 Indiana Master Farmers to cite the biggest changes in their farming careers. Yet Mintert, a Purdue University Extension ag economist and director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture, noted one common theme: large changes in technology over time.
The 2021 Master Farmers are Harry Egnew, Linton; Joyce and Randy Kron, Evansville; Cameron and Cara Mills, Walton; Craig and Kim Williams, Oaktown; and Honorary Master Farmers Ted and Jean Merrell and Terry and Nieta Merrell, Kokomo.
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Egnew shucked corn by hand and threw it into a wagon when he started farming. At the other end of the spectrum, the youngest Master Farmer, Cameron Mills, plants green into cover crops today.
Here is how the panelists answered the question about change:
Harry Egnew: The way we handle grain today versus the way it was handled years ago is a huge change. I see it as a big step for the better overall. Technology is a big part of it. I don’t know how it works, but when it works, it’s good.
Craig Williams: I would have to say how we put seed in the ground today versus in the past is a huge change. We’ve gone from the moldboard plow years ago to matching seed to the soil and planting into green cover crops. We must thank advances in technology in both seed and equipment for being able to do it this way today.
Randy Kron: Technology is by far the biggest change. It turned out to be a big jump when autosteer came along. Soon we could plant without markers. However, we keep those markers. There has been an occasion on our farm when GPS went down, and I told my son to let me in the seat — I was planting the old-fashioned way with markers. Sometimes you must do that, but today, technology doesn’t go down very often.
Cameron Mills: The key to what we can do today planting green and building soil health is technology. At the same time, Cara and I are here in this position today because of all the people who have supported us. That’s family plus other no-till farmers who have shared ideas with us along the way.
Terry Merrell: The biggest change I see is that everybody in farming is competitive today. If you’re not doing a good job growing crops and raising livestock, you’re not going to be around long. Ted and I and our families operate Merrell Brothers, with a big interest in hauling, handling and improving municipal biosolids for use as fertilizer, but we also still farm. Because everyone is so competitive today, it’s important to keep educating yourself and learning from others.
Jean Merrell: We grew up in small family businesses, and today the business is much bigger. What’s good is we’re still able to keep family, including different generations, involved in our business today.
Ted Merrell: The biggest change for me boils down to people management. In the 1980s when Terry and I started out with hogs in rented barns, it was him, me and a helper or two. Today, we have 140 people that we are responsible for. That’s more than most, but several farms have multiple employees. We’ve learned to work effectively ourselves while helping others work effectively too.