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Monday, 18 March 2013

Digital Clouds and the Good Earth

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

A recent editorial suggests that agriculture's future is rooted as much in the digital cloud as in the good earth. The writer praised the now-famous Paul Harvey ad, but he says its farm images are "vestiges of a previous era." He continued, "If you want young people to be interested in agriculture, you need to make it about computers and scientific innovation, not milking the cows before dawn."

Milking still occurs before dawn but I see what the writer means. Many use robotic sensors and computer-managed systems to "squeeze not pull" on udders nowadays and farmers can download new apps for just about anything.

They go digital to keep up with grain markets, check the weather or contact a mechanic. Major implement companies include mounted brackets for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

A farmer in the field can now spend more time peering at a screen than looking at the crops.

It used to be dangerous driving country roads because the farmer approaching in a dusty pickup truck was gawking at the neighbor’s cornfield. Now the farmer is a hazard because he has his head down checking grain reports on his smartphone.

I still use a dumb phone but things change and I’ve tried to roll with the times. I tweet, blog, link and download but I can't claim to be high tech.

Decades ago, our small town had one cafe and the only thing digital about it was that the owner was missing parts of a few fingers on one hand - but he could cook up a mean plate of eggs and hash browns.

I remember sitting at the counter, swinging my grade school legs and studying the signs posted on the wall near the “gone fishin’ calendar.” One said, "I'm not slow; I'm not fast; I'm half fast." Of course I didn't get it until years later but now it seems an appropriate slogan for my tech aptitude.

So what's that got to do with farming? Agriculture has gone high tech in many ways and folks need to adapt to changes. A farmer shouldn't aspire to be "half fast" with it all. And the editorial writer is correct. Young people are best suited to use the digital revolution to breathe new life into the world of agriculture.

But for old-timers and youngsters alike, there may be times to unplug. Maybe not a techless Tuesday or Web-less weekend - just some natural moments of country Zen each day.

Some tech guru supposedly said, "It doesn't really exist until it's in your digital cloud." Every time I drive back to the family farm, I see and remember images that don’t quite fit on a screen - the smell of fresh-cut hay; a new-born calf rising on shaky legs; the sound of kids playing in the pasture on a hot summer day.

I guess my digital cloud is in the fog along the creek and mixed in with the dust that rises from the gravel roads.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I toured a small farm in South Jersey that supplies all the organic veggies for our CSA. They designed a computer-controlled water misting system. Their CSA customers, delivery route, recipes, order forms, etc. are all online. But the greenhouses still smelled of a variety of wonderful herbs and veggies ready for planting in the field!

Forest for the trees
Canned tomatoes off the vine
Makin' hay by the LED's

Automated irrigation too. I live in a large town in a farming community and have toured a local farm providing CSA veggies and flowers also. They too are online. But our roads are still plugged up with slow moving farm equipment travel. Next to the my 1st grade grandgirl's school is a pasture with the lastest crop of baby goats bouncing as though their legs were on springs. Wonderful.

My nephew is an agricultural engineer. They now have farm equipment that can drive itself around the field to harvest the crops or whatever. But nothing can replace escaping the pressures of the day on the tractor, and I always wonder about those deer who make their nests in the field. I know that those big tractors have sensors, but finding a fawn and her mama in front of the combine blades....priceless.

The picture was the perfect period to your story. You know, there is an ap that will allow you to put a digital cloud in the sky. ;-)

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