I love history, don’t get me wrong. I even took extra history classes in high school. I traveled places based on what I read in those text books. My favorite conversations with my parents were often on how things were back when they grew up. However, the conversations always tended to end with “Well, times change.”
Times have changed, especially in farming. Technology, science, the equipment, safety, health, barns, breeds, animal care, etc. have all changed. We can’t keep looking back on how Grandpa or Great-Grandpa used to farm, because that isn’t feasible anymore. Don’t get me wrong. There are aspects of that time that we use in our farming practices today, but I think we can all agree that we don’t want to go back to plowing our 400 acres with a draft horse.
I recently read an article from a city up the road from us, where a group pitched the idea to purchase a barn and turn it into an agricultural interpretive learning site. Wow. Awesome. Then I kept reading. They wanted an old machinery row and to plant heirloom vegetables, and show kids how farming was done in the old days with other early agriculture displays. Sigh…
I don’t farm with our 1949 D Case for a reason. Many, many reasons. I want to teach kids about the new technology, equipment and standards that are out there, not teach them about what we did in the 50’s. I want them to learn about things like GPS, fuel emissions, feed nutrient levels, animal housing designs, soil sampling, breed and trait development in livestock and seeds, and so much more. When I have kids, I want them to be looking to the future, and what they can do to improve upon our current farming practices. I want them to be inspired to create the next big thing in agriculture. Can they do research on nutrition supplements and birth weights in cattle? Or maybe study engineering to design a safer grain auger system? Or maybe they learn to create new uses for corn, soybeans, and wheat or animal by-products? Maybe they take CAD classes and it spurs them to design a new hog housing system?
This is what I want my kids to learn about and be inspired when they visit an agricultural interpretive center. I want my kids looking to tomorrow.
How many of you saw Microsoft’s commercial during the Super Bowl?
It is amazing what we can accomplish and continue to do when we look for new solutions, new ideas, or improvements on what is out there. Technology is just one of the ways we have been able to be better farmers. They could have easily shown a picture of a farmer in a tractor using technology to precisely plant their seeds 2 inches deep or maybe a dairy’s milking parlor and how they use technology and engineering to have an automated milking system, giving them real-time data.
This is why I want to see agricultural interpretive centers focused on what our kids COULD, CAN AND WILL do in the future, not what has already been done. They are the next generation of farmers, working the land, working beside us to help pull a calf, grind feed for our turkey barns, engineer a new combine head design, or, well, who knows! Old farmsteads are disappearing, is the argument put forth in the article. Maybe so, but it is because our parents, grandparents, and great-grand parents, laid the foundation for us to continue to operate to farm. They wanted us to grow, to keep going strong, to be the best in our field. The farmer, is still the same. Still strong-willed, persevering, faith-driven, hard-working, caring, family oriented, patient, and humble. Those characteristics are the foundation of old farmsteads we should teach our children, while they embrace the possibilities of the future.