In the late 1800s, my great-grandfather farmed in southern Minnesota. His journals from that period give insight into the phenomenal changes that have occurred in agriculture since that time. As I have read his daily journal entries, what strikes me as most significant about his farming operation was the diversity of crops and livestock he maintained.
On one 160 acre farm with an additional 80 acres of rented ground, he annually grew a wide variety of different crops for cash and for feed for his cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and horses. In any one year his journals notes his husbandry of at least nine of the following 15 crops: turnips, potatoes, onions, beets, apples, clover hay, flax, timothy, corn, buckwheat, wheat, spelt, oats, barley, and millet. (He also indicated he grew succotash, which to me suggests a crop mixture, but was not further defined in his journals.)
Planting and harvesting so many different crops each year doesn’t at all seem to be to be particularly efficient way to farm. But of course times were different 130 years ago and diversity in farm operations was at that time the principal means of addressing the variability in weather, pests, and other capricious whims of Mother Nature. Nowadays we find ourselves relying on technology to handle those same capricious whims. What we have given up in terms of diversity of crops we make up for by being more efficient with our tillage, planting, and harvesting operations, and by protecting our crops with herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.
While predicting where we will be 130 years from now takes a crystal ball of greater clarity than I currently have, it is clear that efficiency will continue to drive changes in farming for the foreseeable future. More timely operations, more specific field data, and more accurate information about pests and crop growth will be critical to maintaining a viable farming operation.
Just as my great-grandfather found it necessary to adapt from a horse powered threshing machine to steam power (about 1890), today’s growers are finding it essential to adapt to the promising technologies of predictive analytics.
That’s one of the many reasons we created Morning Farm Report. The landscape of agriculture is changing once again and we want to help growers make that transition.
Let us know if you’d like more information or want to share your stories of how agriculture has changed.