In this office, it feels like farmers being irresponsible is a primary headline in the media. Intellectually, I know it isn’t. I know that things like ISIS and the latest slip up by the President or Congress make the headlines far more.
But you know how you notice things that really bother you more? How a personal interaction with something makes it appear more often to you? Yeah, that happens to us when we hear how irresponsible farmers are. Because for the majority of farmers, it just isn’t true.
(I know there are “bad actor” farmers. But really, there are “bad actors” in any industry. In your workplace alone, I know you can name at least two or three that don’t do their job appropriately or efficiently. Don’t hold that against us.)
So today, I’d like to highlight five ways farmers farm responsibly. If any of these are news to you, make sure you ask all your questions in the comments. I would absolutely LOVE to clarify.
1. Farmers preserve their soil through tilage practices.
Ok, this sounds big and complicated, but it really isn’t. Tilage: it’s the same thing as tilling your garden, but on a really big scale. What this means is that farmers have actually quit tiling their soil so much to minimize soil erosion. When the stubs of the crop before are left on the field over the winter, the roots and stalks help hold the soil in the spring when the melted snow and excessive rain threaten to wash it away. Farmers are interested in preserving and building up their soil because it is their family’s income for the next year … and the next.
2. Farmers minimize trips over the field to use less fuel.
Well, the tilage practices I mentioned help. If they aren’t tilling their ground, they also aren’t running a tractor up and down to till the soil. But also, farmers are using GPS to cover their fields more efficiently. Before, every trip up and down the field included a few feet overlap to be sure that no portion of the field was missed. GPS eliminates that and allows farmers to minimize their fuel usage. Technology is amazing!
3. Farmers “prescription farm.”
New technology is also allowing for another amazing advancement – “prescription farming.” Farmers are able to look at soil types and soil tests to determine what each square foot of their field needs in order to be optimized for crop production, and then they only apply fertilizers on that area. Gone are the days when farmers treated a whole field the same! Now they minimize the use of inputs by applying only exactly what is needed in the single spot in the field where it’s needed.
4. Livestock are known as individuals.
Just like your doctor knows you as an individual and treats your needs accordingly, livestock farmers know their animals as individuals too. Each animal has a certain personality and demeanor – and farmers recognize changes when they see these animals every day that alert them to illness and other problems.
Some farmers even have ultrasound scanners that individually check each cow to determine weight and potential grade of the meat they will supply. The health of each cow is a priority and the farmers strictly manage antibiotics (only given when the animals are sick!) and withdrawal times before they can enter the food supply.
5. Farmers seek continuous improvement.
If there’s one thing that is a priority to farmers, it is preserving the land and equipment they have for the next generation. Farmers and their families spend their lives just hoping to build something they can pass on.
All the technology they use now helps. They are able to gather data about their fields, harvests, yields, inputs, rainfall, etc and analyze that data in programs that help them understand their sustainability. But the real key here is that all that data gives farmers a means to continually improve.
Think about it this way – if you are mostly healthy but not having a yearly physical, you probably don’t worry much about your cholesterol. But the moment that you have your first blood test and your cholesterol is high, you eat healthier. Farmers are the same way. Having the technology to provide data about how they are farming helps them in their pursuit of continuous improvement and leaving something amazing to their children.
Want to know more? Ask questions in the comments!!