What better question to ask a group of farmers who were just bestowed with the Master Farmer distinction than how they use technology, and where they see it going in the future. Jim Mintert posed that question to the panel of Master Farmers.
Mintert is director of the Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture. The panel discussion was held after the Master Farmer banquet at Jay County High School during the Indiana Farm Management Tour. Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture co-sponsor the Master Farmer program.
Here is how the panel responded.
Terry Hayhurst, Terre Haute: "You need to use the information that you have and that you collect with technology. If you collect data and just stick it in the drawer and never use it, then it doesn't have value to your operation.
"One place we use technology is on land we know won't be in farming forever. On rented land that will go commercial at some point we adopt a strategy of just replacing nutrients that the crop uses, and use technology to help us do that. It's an important thing for us, and a way we can use technology to our advantage."
Richard Kohlhagen, Rensselaer: "When I think of technology I think of change and being ready for it, When I was at Purdue my dad and I were also farming 2,200 acres with two Farmall 806 gas tractors. My classmates would ask me how many bottoms on the plow we pulled with those tractors. When I told them 'seven,' they didn't believe it. We farm on sand ground- that's what made it possible,.
"What we have to do is accept change and learn how to use it. Obviously we don't farm with those tractors today and we don't plow like that either. Change is here, it's going to help us, and we need to learn how to use it."
Mike Flock, Ramsey: "I want to see the technology and see if it has a place for us. Take auto-steer for example. It really works well in our area, because we have rolling land and lots of woods. We may have eight-sided fields. At least with GPS and auto-steer, I have somewhere to start. Just go in the middle of the field and start planting, and let it guide you from there!
"I've always been taught you don't necessarily need to be the first to try something new, but you darn well don't want to be the last one, either!
"Variable-rate technology falls in that category. We use it now where it fits. I guess I would sum it up by saying that you have to be ready to embrace technology."
Mike Heckaman, Argos: "We don't own a lot of equipment because we concentrate on the dairy. Our manure is custom applied. We do have tractors to pump it out of the lagoon. We also hire our corn custom-chopped.
"Technology for us is more about what is changing with diary. We're using new technology now that monitors the temperature and other factors on each cow. It helps us know when one is sick, and when one might be ready to breed.
"Robotic milkers are coming. It's a big deal in Europe. The challenge is paying for them. It's a technology where basically you're paying your labor bill upfront.
Mintert: "What I heard is agriculture today is all about change. No matter what type of operation you have, you need to be ready to embrace technology."