The Family Farm of the 21st century isn’t the picture in many Americans minds. The “American Gothic” many people think the average farmers look like is just not the case. Many farmers are often thought of as old school and stuck in our ways. In fact, agriculture today is much more technologically advanced than many other industries out there. Often, new technology in agriculture moves faster than you can blink.
As I write, I have just gotten in from planting on my farm. My family has been utilizing the ground we are on for well over a century. I am the sixth generation to farm at Wood Farms, located near Bowen, and West Point, Illinois. My grandfather, father and I all are on the farm daily doing day to day activities. As I have said before the modern farm is more than pitch forks, and Johnnie Poppers of yesteryear. In order to farm year after year, modern family farms must adap, and stay with new innovations to survive. As my dad would say “you either keep up, or catch up!” I firmly agree with his statement.
First, GPS (Global Positioning Systems) have become the norm among agriculture. These systems reduce driver error, such as overlap in planting seed. This to you may not sound important, but when there is overlap there is wasted, time, fuel, product, and most of all MONEY! These systems do more than drive in straight rows. They also can turn equipment off, such as planters at optimal time in order to save seed. These also can be placed on equipment such as chemical sprayers, and fertilizer buggies that in turn save product overlap. This reduces excess fertilizer runoff and saves money. Many farms have adopted these technologies such as ours. The 24-row planter I was just operating can be a handful at times, but with GPS and row shutoffs, it reduces error and fatigue on my part, which means more profit in the end. Even during harvest, our combine is able to track rows and steer itself; which keeps the operator from running over rows. We are able to keep track of what happens in the field with computer programs such as APEX by John Deere. This program allows us to see yields, and planting maps of fields that we farmed during the year. This helps us to better understand our farms, and find places of improvement in order to optimize production.
Even simple things such as row spacing have drastically changed on the modern farm. Row widths in corn and beans such as twin rows, 15, 20 and 30 inch row spacing’s are all used. Just 25-30 years ago the norm in row spacing’s were 36 inch rows. We then went down to 30 inch rows after that. But now, farms like ours are on 20 inch rows. The reason for this is our growing seasons every year are different, and many times the window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller to get a crop in. So the name of the game is to get optimum growing degree days, and sunlight capture. This means narrower row widths in order to capture more light.
Many people who tend to be far removed from the modern farm don’t get to see the technology and work involved in day to day activities. Most see farms as factory farms where we don’t care for the land or animals. This is totally wrong; we strive to use practices that help out our soils, and keep it healthy for generations to come. Simple things like keeping cattle herds healthy, and well taken care of by giving yearly checkups on animals, and doing whats necessary to make that animals life healthy and enjoyable. Keeping track of animals with computer programs such as Excel, or even a phone app can aide in this goal. Long gone are the days of guess working with livestock; technology is readily available to keep herds well maintained.
Many people don’t get the pleasure of working in production agriculture like I do. Nearly 2% of the United States population is actual farms, that’s not much. I am an even rarer breed as I am 23 years old and actively farming. The majority of the farmers in the U.S. are well over 50. Farming ground that has been in my family for a very long time is a quality of our farm that I am proud of. Being able to work next to my father and grandfather everyday, also makes me very proud. I have a brother who is an officer in the Air Force, and some day when he decides to come back and farm, I’ll be able to work side by side with him too, which makes me smile just to think about. So when you see a farmer now you know they are more than just overalls and dusty farm trucks; they are the backbone of America and the heartbeat of the world!
Hi, my name is Justin Wood, I am 23 years old, and a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Ag Business, and upon completion I will be returning to the family farm near Bowen Illinois, where I am currently working at now. We raise Corn Soybeans, and wheat. Also, we run a cattle operation to maximize our land available. After high school I went to John Wood Community College, Perry Ag Center. I then transferred to Western in the Spring of 2014.