Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Reasons Farming is Easier than 50 years ago

In the last fifty years, things have changed a lot in the farming industry. By 1965 most farms had already converted to mechanization. Tractors and combines were used to till and harvest crops, instead of stables of draft animals. This was an important innovation for farms, but ultimately, farmers worked hard, physical labor as any oldtimer will testify. Technology has made farming a pretty cushy job according to them and here are the top five reasons why.

1. Climate control cabs to keep out the elements.
This was a major comfort upgrade and it became even better when they had reliable air conditioning and heaters. Depending on the time of year, farmers used to freeze, roast, or get eaten alive by mosquitoes. I've heard the most miserable days were running combine with no breeze. The chaff would settle an inch deep and the sweat bees would crawl inside your collar. How can I complain if my air conditioning is running a little warmer than I like? I am breathing clean, mostly cool air, and not being harassed by insects.
I love my cool ride!

2. Hydraulic equipment.
Most tractors and farm equipment didn't have much hydraulics, if any. We still run one set of old school rod weeders that use a lever system to put them in the ground or lift them up. The lever is squeezed to release a pin. I pull the lever down to lift the weeder out of the ground or push it away to put it in the ground. I release the lever and the pin slislides into the gear to hold it in place. It takes all my weight on the lever in order to set the right depth. (This is why I do not diet) Then I have to do it five more times. If I am weeding and it plugs up with big weeds and dirt, the weeds and dirt increase the weight I have to lift. I then clean it out before putting it back in the ground. Modern day weeders lift in and out of the ground with the touch of a button. They fold up for transportation with just a click. Hydraulic equipment is heavenly. Some rod weeders even have hydraulic controlled rods. This eliminates the need for finicky drive lines and the rod speed is easily controlled with hydraulic flow adjustments. If the weeds are big I can bump up the flow and not plug up. Did I mention hydraulic equipment is heavenly?

Each weeder is pulled by two chains, and the frame pulled by cables.
No backing up allowed!
3. Augers on my seed truck.
Filling drills is still a dirty miserable job, but I don't have to do it with a shovel and chute. Fifty years someone had to get in the back of the truck and shovel all the wheat to fill the drills. My seed truck has a hydraulic auger, so I can magically pull a rope and pour wheat into my seed boxes. Seeding requires long hours and I am already tired without the physical labor, thankyouverymuch!

Augers are almost like magic!
4. Horsepower. Tractors these days are big, efficient, and have the horsepower to do any job required. More horsepower means that equipment can be wider and speeds faster. More acres can be covered with less fuel and time. This is especially true in combines. My husband's first combine had a 12 feet wide header and he could walk faster than this combine could run. Harvest took longer, required more combines, and man power. What used to require five combines can now be accomplished with two combines and less time and effort. This reduces the risk of weather damage and driver fatigue.

This guy had it made in the shade!

5. Computer and satellite technology. Computers have dramatically changed farming in the last twenty years. Many tractors have GPS receivers allowing the tractor to steer itself! Rate controllers on equipment allows precision fertilizing, seeding and spraying. This reduces the amount of herbicides and pesticides farmers apply in their fields. On board computers also collect data from the field, which increases efficiency. For example, the GPS data from harvest can indicate the best and worst areas of yield and fertilizer can be custom applied. With completely straight lines and less overlap, my fieldwork looks as good as the veteran farmers.

Half a days work, over 200 acres harrowed.

Many people eschew the methods of the modern day farmer, but as someone that benefits everyday from these changes, I say hallelujah! Fifty years ago a farmer fed 28 people, The modern farmer feeds 155, with much less wear and tear on themselves. I can't imagine how farming will continue to change and improve in the next fifty years, but I am looking forward to it.

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