June 20, 2024

Rural Issues: The more things change, farmers stay the same

Flying ATVs, autonomous farm equipment, short-stature corn, carbon farming and biological solutions for soil and plant health were all on display the Farm Progress Show near Boone, Iowa.

Much has changed in the world of production agriculture in recent years. Much has changed for journalists covering the industry, as well.

When I attended my first Farm Progress Show as a farm broadcaster, I arrived early in the morning, hours before the show opened. With a live broadcast at 5:45 a.m., I had to do my show prep from the media tent.

I do not remember if it rained that first year I covered the show, but I do know it was cold. I had to drink coffee to keep my teeth from chattering when I was giving the markets.

Wearing gloves, the pages of printed market numbers were hard to turn. Dialing the telephone to get that clean line to the radio station meant taking off those gloves.

We now log on to our computers and use wireless high-speed internet access to get market numbers and many times send back produced interviews, as well as photos and videos for our website. We post to social media platforms throughout the day.

I could fill a page with all the changes I have seen in these past two decades, but I would rather talk about what has not changed. There are inherent qualities in farmers that must be in their DNA.

Although the tools and the political and social environment in which they work have changed, farmers have not. They still like to look at big iron.

They like to talk to farmers from other parts of the Midwest to learn about conditions there. They ask a lot of questions and pick up as much information as possible to take home and put in the magazine rack — tucked in beside saved copies of Illinois AgriNews and Indiana AgriNews, of course — next to their chair in their family room.

Imagine the stories many of the farmers attending an event like this could tell. Imagine the changes many have seen in their lives.

Field monitoring, technology that allows you to manage the condition of grain in your bins from a phone and stacked traits in seed corn would have been science fiction at best.

Farmers are an incredibly positive and determined lot. The elements are so often against them, yet they endure.

When the elements are working with them, anhydrous costs, steel prices and cash rent prices go through the roof.

Nearly every aspect of production agriculture has changed, and while farmers have adapted, there is much about the American farmer that has not changed.

Although the products and services agricultural companies are showcasing at farm shows today are much different than those I reported about 30 years ago, one thing has not changed — it is farmers’ innovation, determination and commitment to feed and clothe the world that brought us to this place in history.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.