Finally, it’s here. Spring. Warmer weather. This past week, I spent mostly on the road, traveling to five different farms in northern and north-central Illinois.

We have a new feature where we turn in photos for a feature page made up of photos. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and that’s really true. You can tell a story with one great photo that it would take a million words to describe.

There were worse places to be than driving the back roads of northern and north-central Illinois in 80-plus degree weather on two beautiful sunny spring days.

All of the farmers I photographed I already talk to on Twitter and even as stressful as this time of year is for them, they all agreed to spare me a few precious minutes to take some pictures of them doing what they do best — raising grain for food, feed and fuel.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and you can talk all you want about all the newfangled modern conveniences that today’s tractors have. Nobody would argue with that. It’s made farming faster (mostly) and (also mostly) easier.

But it still is remarkably hard, hot, dusty work — without a guaranteed paycheck at the end of it all. Yes, there’s crop insurance — if a farmer chooses to take it and comply with the regulations and paperwork required.

Both of my photo days ended long after the sun had set. As I drove back home, lights from tractor running deep into the night twinkled across fields from nearly at the northern border of Illinois down La Salle County.

It’s a week or two full of these unbelievably long days. In the fall, another few days or weeks of equally long nights with harvest.

I would be willing to bet that none of the detractors of those farmers and the products they plant, the products being genetically-modified corn and soybeans, were up at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. as farmers across the Midwest were working to get their crops in the ground and start the all-in gamble that is a growing season.

Maybe they were up, out having a pint and a burger at their local brewpub with some friends or at a child’s ballgame or home with their families.

These farmers weren’t. Many of them are parents and parents of young children. That’s another sacrifice they make, and they make it for their families that many of them may only talk to via cell phone during the early mornings and late nights of planting.

I may be naïve, but I absolutely believe that if those people who are free and easy with their criticisms, with hitting the “share” button on Facebook to share the latest fit/healthy/organic mommy health blogger anti-food post or rumor or panic or spreading that fear and panic at the local grocery store would spend one day, or even sit a couple of rounds in those tractors with actual farmers during actual planting, their thoughts might be changed.

We talk about technology in farming, and we should. But we should also talk — and show — how hard farming still is.

You can have all the screens and bells and whistles and drones and satellites in the world, but it still comes down to the man or woman in the tractor. This is a hard, dirty, dangerous job still, even with the technology.

We shouldn’t shirk from reminding people of that, of how hard it still is to coax a crop from the ground, no matter what that crop is or of the amazing people who do the coaxing.