So many times I hear the phrase “farmers feed the world”. Yes, we truly do feed the world. Some farm in a very small scale to provide for their own family or neighbors and others for larger markets near and far, but the phrase “farmers feed the world” really has started to irritate me. It is just so cliche’! On our farm, we do more than feed the world!
Now let me explain. Yes, my farm grows crops and some of that crop is made into food products such as bread, tofu, soy milk, wheat cereal flakes, and refried beans. But that is not all. Much of our crops of ours are used to make things like ink, insulation, crayons, carpet, livestock feed and ethanol. Not all of what is grown on my farm and many other farms solely provides a commodity that is used as food. Food that is used to feed a growing population here in my small rural town and places all over the world.
So what do we do on our farm besides grow food, livestock feed, soybeans for insulation and crayons, and corn for ethanol? We analyze the soil looking for its specific nutrient values, we enrich our knowledge base by attending classes, we shovel and scoop, we climb and sweep, we plan and evaluate, we repair, we research new seeds available and weed issues, we plant and harvest, and nurture and protect the plants that grow in our fields. We make decisions ever minute of every day to be sustainable and leave this third generation farm better for the upcoming generations!
We grow in the understanding of work, we continually grow our definition of success, and we prepare a business while building a way of life that we can hand down to our children.
On our farm we draw out an outline, perhaps one would say the frame of a puzzle and the squiggly lines defining interior pieces. Each one of those interior pieces is a plot of land we farm. Then we identify soil types and nutrient levels in various places if each field, layering one level of information onto the base of the puzzle, piece by piece. Then we take the available seed varieties, match them to the soil type, weed, disease pressure, and insect issues if any, and place another layer of information over top, again piece by piece in coordinating locations onto the puzzle. (And yes, for those that are asking, we do use some seed that has been researched and developed to be resistant to pest and weed controls to meet our needs, raise a healthy crop and attempt to minimize applications of substances aiding in growing healthy plants. These seeds are genetically modified (GMO) seeds, and are one of many tools we use to grow healthy crops.) We then transfer all the information into a computer program, called Precision Farming software, in our planter and seeder to plant the seeds then the sprayer to care for plants as they grow.
We can monitor how much seed is planted to the nearest inch, how far apart the seeds are planted, how much fertilizer and exactly where it is placed, and adjust these setting as we go. That means that we can take a map and data from the past years, analyze it and know that certain parts of a field grow a smaller amount of crop than another. This can due to many reasons some of which include topography, soil type, moisture, wind, sunlight etc. We then can place less seed and nutrient supports in these areas. All of which can be programmed into the computer software ahead of time and can be done automatically through the software or manually by the driver in the tractor cab.
The future of farming is much more than planting a few seeds to feed the world. It is technology, ongoing training, sharing our story, protecting our rights, and a commitment to the future for generations to come!