How Much Has Farming Changed?

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Farming's still a lot of work, but creative farmers and manufacturers are taking some of the pain out of the equation.

It’s not unusual for our office of former farm kids to reminisce about how we grew up and how much more mechanized farming has become.

At a recent potluck, a few of us got on the subject of barn cleaners, of all things. Back when we were growing up, the most automated barn cleaning “systems” consisted of shovels, wheelbarrows and buckets on cables.

Once the manure spreaders were filled and headed to the fields, they tended to break down, of course, fully loaded. Our research director, Scott, remembers having to “manually” spread manure until he could get to the part of the wagon needing repair. Ahhhh, the good old days.

Many of us were reared on what people now call “diversified” farms – raising hogs, milking cows and growing row crops and forages to feed the animals. My parents expected all of their kids to pull their own weight by washing bucket milkers, stacking hay, warming up half-frozen pigs in the bathroom sink and walking beans to pull volunteer corn and cockleburs.

Chores these days are more mechanized in most parts of the country. Many farmers don’t need to physically touch a bale to harvest, haul, store and feed it. But I’ve been on enough farms lately to see there continues to be a lot of sweat equity, with long days and nights put in to produce quality products.

At the same time, new machines – many the brainstorms of growers – continue to be created to speed productivity. Just last year, a Western grower told me how a new machine that adds moisture to hay while baling allows him to have more of a home life. A month ago, another grower explained how he designed a bale accumulator that groups and picks up round bales safely on his rolling hillsides. A new large-square baler from a major ag manufacturer, according to a grower who tested it, lets him bale faster, with fewer breakdowns and denser bales. (Watch for details in a coming Hay & Forage Grower.)

More technologies are being introduced at farm shows, including Germany’s Agritechnica, which runs from this Tuesday through Nov. 16. Some of the larger ag manufacturers strutting their stuff at that huge show were founded from farmers’ ingenuity, much like how a rather famous green brand came to be here in the U.S. Today it’s tougher to take a good idea, find someone to manufacture the resulting product, then risk the money to patent and successfully market it. But, as the grower with the accumulator is showing, there continues to be a need for new ideas and the brave souls who make them happen.

I can’t imagine what growers and manufacturers will come up with next.

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