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What the average American knows about actual modern farming is often embarrassing. For instance, my uncle works and owns a live, no B.S. farm in Iowa, and the extent of my land-working knowledge still tends to end in e-i-e-i-o. To get a little less ignorant, I check out Real American Farmer and other media like it on the dtnprogressivefarmer.com site.

Agriculture just doesn’t come up in everyday conversation in many parts of the country. Even in rural-ass Texas where I grew up we learned what we thought were completely useless skills, like how to properly wash a goat and how to cut a steer’s hair so it hides its flaws for show, and even this is more mainstream than farming.

The Ag 101 page at epa.gov says of the U.S. population, “…less than 1% claim farming as an occupation.” To put that into perspective, total up the number of millionaires in New York City and LA and you will have about the same number of folks who claim “Farmer” as their job title in this country — roughly 960,000 people. That’s it. Those precious few are responsible, in large part, for producing enough food for close to 300 million.

So agricultural topics and techniques on the site like combating Goss’s Wilt (a corn disease) or turning soil with vertical tillage (a technique that helps break up surface soil compaction and improves rainfall penetration) are almost direct links to the reason the corn products at the local grocers are cheap and plentiful.

Less than one million people: That number represents a myriad of interesting facets like the mechanization and consolidation of the American farm and the lives of the people who work them. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but Progressive Farmer is an easy place to start checking out the latest trends in agriculture practices and science.

Also, they feature oversized harvesters and combines, which honestly is what drew me to the site to begin with; I’m a sucker for heavy equipment.

Real American Farmer [DTN/The Progressive Farmer]
The Progressive Farmer [Website]
Ag 101 [EPA.gov]
Record Americans live on food stamps amid record number of millionaires  [news.xinhuanet]


8 Responses to Farming: A Modern Industry

  1. TTechsan says:

    If you tell me you are from the Tx Panhandle, I’ll have another reason to like this site!

  2. Jayce says:

    Not to change the topic or put cast a negative light on the farming industry, but the cheap corn is partially a result of the close to $4 BILLION in subsidies that the government gives to corn farmers every year. Almost $75 BILLION since 1995.

    Technology is great. Farming is great. I wish more of the products consumed in this country came from our own lands. But think about this: cheap corn, cheap and pervasive use of high fructose corn syrup in a large majority of foods. The overproduction of cheap corn is government policy.

    If you’ll excuse me, there’s a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos waiting for me….

  3. eddie says:

    And the tool connection in this story would be…

  4. Chris says:

    Eddie: Try re-reading the last paragraph of the post.


  5. MattC says:

    What little I know is that farming has become a highly advanced, mechanized industry. Also, it seems that farming is general is misunderstood. There is a great complexity to understanding all the components/procedures to run a successful farming enterprise. Not to mention creative financing on equipment, subsidies, and other factors related to the business side of farm.

  6. Jerod says:

    I work with my father on a corn, bean, and cow/calf farm in Western Iowa. We use all sorts of tools in day to day operations. Cordless power tools such as impacts, grinders, saws, and grease-guns have made it easier to do maintenance without bringing the projects to the shop. I use 1/4″ to 2″ wrenches daily on our older equipment. Most new machinery are built with metric fasteners since the rest of the world embraced the system many years ago. We have what it takes to do carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, and repair work on everything from power tools to $200,000+ combines any time of the day or night. We earn every dollar, and every subsidy the government wants to provide. If we were allowed to set the price for our crops based on what it cost to produce them, you wouldn’t be able to afford to eat. The government needs to eliminate the games that the commodity market and bankers play so that farmers can do what we do and get paid accordingly.

  7. zoomzoomjeff says:

    I grew up on our family farm, also in Western Iowa (NW to be exact). We grew corn/beans and raised hogs, and some cattle. Jerod couldn’t have said it better. I learned more skills growing up than 99% of the people I know. I would go back in a heartbeat and take over the farm if
    a) my 78 year old parents would retire and if
    b) I had the balls to farm in this age

    Since I left in ’95 it has changed dynamically, and I couldn’t just pick up where I left off, even though I regularly go back for weekend help. It’s a much more competitive environment that will break all but the toughest, smartest, and most up to date.

    I say yes and amen on what Jarod said:
    “We earn every dollar, and every subsidy the government wants to provide. If we were allowed to set the price for our crops based on what it cost to produce them, you wouldn’t be able to afford to eat. The government needs to eliminate the games that the commodity market and bankers play so that farmers can do what we do and get paid accordingly.”

    I wish people REALLY understood the games and what goes on, that it’s not just the government mailing us a check every month like some sort of ‘salary’ or welfare. That your $4 box of cereal contains 20 cents of corn that we got paid for, and the rest went to processing, a rich commodity broker, and a serious markup from General Mills & your local grocer.

    Sorry for the off topic. Thanks for the writeup, Sean. And there’s something about firing up an engine with pistons the size of coffee cans and smelling diesel in the morning. You need to visit your uncle for a week and help out with the harvest sometime.

  8. @eddie:

    If you’ve never been around a farm I can understand your confusion, many people’s only exposure is seeing a farm on TV. But if you have ever owned, worked on, lived near a farm you’d understand that a farmer has to be one hell of a manager, driver, biologist, mechanic, carpenter, welder, and machinist (I’m sure I’m missing a few). They probably have more tools than your local mechanic.

    My family owned a farm, by the time I was old enough to even remember it, it had passed from my grandfather’s hands to his nephew’s, so I didn’t grow up on it, but spent most of my summers working on it.

    My first real job was greasing and cleaning the tractors and other farm equipment at about 7 or 8. I was driving tractors by 10. I watched the older guys taking machines apart to figure out what was wrong with them and fixing them, later doing it myself.

    On the farm, you don’t call the repairman, you’re the repairman. You don’t call a carpenter, you’re it. Etc, etc… You get a lot of hands on experience with tools and machinery — how to take things apart, fix them and put them back together. Living in the suburbs, I wish I knew how to instill some of that experience in my own kids. At least they don’t have to deal with manure.

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