Moving On: Why We Can’t Keep Looking Back on Grandpa’s Farm

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.

Edna Mode

In the famous words of Edna Mode. “I never look back, Darling. It distracts from the now.”

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.




    1. Thank you! I agree. I just wish more places would focus on the improvements and the science and technology to get kids interested in it, rather than a history lesson. There is nothing wrong with the history lesson, but I think the focus should be on the future. Time to get kids enthusiastic about ag once again!

  1. You are so right! Why is it, for decades, associations show how farm work was once done. Sadly, most young people today, don’t have a clue what farming is like today. Some think farmers are backward, illiterate, and uneducated. HOW WRONG!! Today, and the future methods in farming are so high tech, and wonderful! The Minnesota State fair was fun to go to just for machinery hill. To see the largest tractors, and related equipment, and all the other “big” stuff, was a treat for us small time farmers. It was a “hill” to dream on, sitting in the cab of a tractor we had only seen in magazines, was a dream. The old joke my Dad would say about us buying one of these huge beasts, was, ” We would have to buy the neighbors farm to turn the tractor around.” Machinery hill was an enticement for the young boy or girl thinking about farming. Now the Hill is only for the “Hobby Farmer” and big “City lots”. Not much dreaming on the hill now! With GPS and all the other technology that is here now, and to think of what’s ahead is a real excitement. I urge school groups and other organizations to tour an up to date high tech farm, and see how much these farmers have invested in equipment! Most college students who become doctors or lawyers, think about how much their student loan is. 100,000 is not much of a debt compared to what a farmer has invested. 100,000 is a good down payment on a Combine, not to mention all the other equipment and the cost of the land it self! I say, the next time you see a farmer, give him a hug and a thank you, if not for farmers, we non farmers wouldn’t eat!!! By the way, don’t you love it when city folks say, “Well your meat doesn’t cost you anything, because you have the beef on your farm.” When our city relatives would come out and feed their faces and leave, a comment about “it’s free for you” would drive my Dad up the silo! Keep up your wonderful blog, it’s like “Machinery Hill used to be, only even better!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. You are right on so many points. I always make a point to mention how much a new tractor and combine cost in my speaking engagements. People tend to realize how big of an economic impact farming has when they find out your combine costs as much as their house that they’ve been paying off for 30 years! ;) I do miss the real machinery hill. It was a place we visited frequently as my dad worked up at the state fair, and being a farm family…well you get the idea. This year, surprisingly enough, John Deere did have a larger ag tractor in besides their little lawn tractors. Too many car dealerships have taken over machinery hill now!

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