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Most of today’s farmers no longer just climb out of bed at dawn and head to the barn. A lot of early-morning thinking gets done before sunrise.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

April 13, 2016

2 Min Read

After a too-short night’s sleep, “Jim” rolled over to look at his clock. Squinting at the blue light glowing into his eyeballs, he groaned: “Ah, 4:30 already! Up and at ‘em!”

Walk along with him – if you can keep up. Pulling on a fresh t-shirt, well-worn jeans and hikers while hopping down the hall, first order was to power up his laptop. The smartphone was just too tiny for early-morn poking and viewing.

Weather news first – the five-day outlook. Would there be enough dry days plus heat units to move 4-inch-deep soil temperatures closer to the 50-degree “green light” for corn planting? Checking the longer range forecast, it looks good – maybe.

4:40 a.m.: Mouse click to the markets. “Dang! October corn slipped another nickel. Shouda booked another 5,000 bushel for early delivery  . . . yesterday!” Onward to the 30- and 45-day outlook crystal-ballers. “Gotta check at Noon. Rumor has it soybean carryover will be cut today. May need to pull the trigger on a bean contract. ”

4:50 a.m.: Another click, to the wheat scab prediction center. “Hmm, fusarium’s heating up southeast of here. Better double-check with the crop protect guys about spray products, timing and, oh yeah, cost. One more to-do,” he sighed in resignation.

Spotting his bulging email folder, he clicked again. Scrolling down, the farmer was relieved: “Nothing that can’t wait.”

5 a.m.: Dallying time’s up, and he was off to the machine shed and his already arriving help. First order was to make that new $3,000 sprayer controller "talk" with the cab’s command module.

Failing that, "plan b" will be to call in that smart new precision ag kid at XYZ’s dealership. “It’s gotta be up and running by 10:30. Should I call now, or wait a while?” he wondered. “Naw, let’s do the hope and pray set-up first. He’s a cell call away.”

That’s just an early-morn glimpse at the growing complexity in a few of the on-the-run decisions that today’s farmer must make as the spring rush cranks up. What'll it be like in 10 years?

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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