Cut to the Chase: Farm innovation exciting, but necessity rules

By Blake Hurst

I just returned from a short trip to the Farm Progress Show with my dad. Held every other year in central Iowa, the show has hundreds of acres of the newest and best farm equipment, crop hybrids and gizmos. Crowded with farmers window shopping, it is one more example of how much ingenuity has gone into American agriculture in the last century.
For me, it brought back memories. As a high school senior, I skipped school nearly 40 years ago to travel to the same show with my parents. My gosh, I had plans. I came home with 40 pounds of promotional material and signed up for dozens of free things.  It will not surprise most of you to find that none of those shiny machines ever graced Hurst Farms.
Nope, we kept struggling along with machinery that had long since lost its shine, and my plans for the latest in grain-handling equipment went by the wayside. I had to be satisfied with a six-inch auger with an old Minneapolis Moline tractor hooked to the drive shaft.
Instead of a thousand-bushel pit with a drive chain that would move thousands of bushels of grain an hour, we dug a hole in the driveway and propped up our plastic hopper with a couple of hay bales.
Anyway, Dad and I spent this day looking at the latest in technology: precision farming, 1,300-bushel grain carts and combines with more computing power than Neil Armstrong had on the Apollo 11 moon landing. If I understand it right, I can now keep all my farm records on my smart phone, run the planter with an app and predict grain markets far into the future with a couple of keystrokes. Or at least I could if I wasn’t me, because I just learned how to text in the last few months.
How do people have enough time to learn how to apply this technology, when we spend all of our time trying to fix the 10-year-old technology we already have?
My nephews were there as well, creating their own rather extensive wish list for our farm. I listened to their dreams, smiled in all the right places and will let their father break the news to them about what we can afford rather than what we’d like to have.
Farmers at the show had a smile on their face and a spring in their step. At the end of the worst year for raising crops in a half of a century, we’re all looking forward to next year because we know it will be better. It’s an exciting time to be a farmer, and even if we can’t always afford the newest things, they’ll arrive on our farm soon enough. If I could look back at those brochures full of shiny new machines I lusted after 40 years ago, I’m sure that many of them are in use on our farm today. Someday we’ll have some of those shiny new-fangled gadgets I saw this fall in use on our farm.
I hope my nephews and sons-in-law will teach me how to use them.

Blake Hurst, of Westboro, Mo., is the president of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.

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