My 14-year-old daughter is a quiet, serious soul who isn’t prone to hysterics or drama, so you can imagine my reaction when I heard a shriek and a ‘slam’ come from her room this week. Was it a mouse? A rabid raccoon in the backyard? No, the Internet had ‘crashed’ right as she was trying to access information while writing an English paper.
Teenagers, lawmakers and otherwise-sane-adults sounded a collective ‘gasp’ when more than 10,000 websites shut down in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act bill. Millions of signatures and petitions were gathered in a single day because Americans wanted Congress to get this point: we need technology.
Well, here’s my point: we also need to embrace technology in farming. It seems farming is the only industry that people want to remain unchanged from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. Maybe that’s because the last time many Americans were on a farm, it was before the Internet. Back then, weeds from soybean fields were removed by roving bands of hoe-swinging, sweaty teenagers. Back then, corn was put in the fields with six row planters (if you’re lucky) and it took three days to harvest a 100-acre field and all that work would bring a farmer less than $2 per bushel. Yields were a fraction of what they are today. There weren’t a lot of choices in production; farming was labor intensive and fewer farm kids went on to college because that’s just the way things were.
Today, tractors are bigger, yields are bigger, and corn prices are twice what they were in the 80’s. That’s not all that’s gaining ground in rural Iowa today; college education levels, which once hovered around 10 percent in the 1980’s, are now over 30 percent. There are more choices in food production; you want organic? Iowa farmers grow it. You want conventional? Iowa farmers grow it. What you want depends on what you are able and willing to pay.
Clearly, technology in farming has brought more choices to you and me. I, for one, am glad for those choices, and the progress that made them possible. It’s food for thought; as you wheel your cart down the grocery aisle, armed with your iPhone-enabled QR-code price scanners, there’s no going back. And, for that matter, who would want to?