Monday, March 5, 2012

Farming Technology At Its Best

Submitted by Lindsey Loving, International Food Information Council & Alliance to Feed the Future

I recently had the opportunity to visit a farm for the first time ... ever. Sure, I'd driven by farms and seen the cattle grazing and the fields with row upon row of corn and cotton. But I never had an up-close and personal look, until now. I was amazed by the efficiency with which the cows were milked and the pride the farmers took in their work. But one of the most striking things was how far agricultural technology has come, and how that technology enables farmers to do their jobs more efficiently than ever before.

For example, one farm I visited had 4,500 acres of land for growing corn and soybeans. To farm all that land, there were about a dozen people. My math skills aren't great, but that seems like a lot of land per person! This level of efficiency would have been impossible 50 years ago. When you see the old and the new farming machinery—planters, irrigators, combines, etc.—side by side, the difference is truly remarkable. And yet, it is still a very similar process with the same basic tasks as before; only faster and on a larger scale (and less back pain). Ultimately, improvements in farming technology now make it possible to obtain more food from the land, with less food waste and less loss of natural resources. In addition, techniques such as biotechnology, used by some farmers, make it possible to reduce pesticide and herbicide applications, which research shows consumers are looking for in foods they buy for themselves.

If I had to choose between the “old” way of doing things and the new, I would definitely pick the new. After all, who doesn't want their job to be easier (I don't know what I would do if I had to revert back to “snail mail” and fax machines)!

One thing I can say for sure is that farmers work hard! There are no sick days or snow days in farming. The animals need to be fed and tended to every day. Even when farmers aren't planting or harvesting, there is planning and maintenance to be done on the equipment and vast acres of land, even on the bitterest of cold days (like the day I visited).

For the farmers I met, farming is a personally rewarding and fulfilling career. After seeing what a big job farming is, I appreciate more than ever that I don't have to grow my own food, and I have a greater appreciation for the farmers who work 24/7 to provide food for the world. We all benefit from their hard work!

On National Ag Day this year, I am remembering my visit to the farms and what American farmers provide for the world. I also have a newfound appreciation for the technology that enables them to do their jobs more efficiently.

The Alliance to Feed the Future is a group of scientific societies, universities, industry and commodity groups, and nonprofit communication organizations committed to raising awareness and improving understanding of the benefits and necessity of modern food production and technology in order to meet global demand. Its 85 members have science-based resources on modern agriculture, food production, and technology that are all available through the Alliance website.