A Publication of WTVP

The majority of farms are small businesses, and 95 percent of these businesses are run by families. It’s a unique business that requires them to adapt numerous skills so their operation can run at peak efficiency. Keeping up to date on the latest technology, equipment, seed, fertilizer and crop protectants is an ongoing learning curve that is both challenging and rewarding.

A farmer is an agronomist. This entails the knowledge of providing corn and soybean plants the right nutrients at the right time in the right place. They must also be able to identify weeds and apply the correct herbicide at the correct rate. As an agronomist, a farmer must be able to identify insects and diseases that may attack their crops, followed up with the proper insect treatment or fungicide.

A farmer is a mechanic. There are many pieces of equipment on a farm. Tractors, a planter, field cultivator, combine, wagons and trucks are just a few of the machines used in growing and harvesting a crop. Repairs to this equipment can be a common practice. Not only do farmers need the skills in typical wrench-turning, but also in welding, using a cutting torch and a range of power tools.

A farmer is an engineer. It is a constant challenge to improvise, adjust and adapt to create efficiencies. Often, they apply their engineering skills to a piece of equipment that is needed for a particular job. There have been books written on how farmers have creatively engineered their way to making a job easier, more economical and time-saving.

A farmer is a market analyst. A successful growing season will have crops to market. When should farmers sell their crops? At harvest in October, so they do not have to pay for storage? After the first of the year, when taxes are due and purchases are being made for the next growing season? Should they wait for a possible weather scare the following spring or summer that could increase prices? Corn and soybean prices go up and down each day, just like the stock market. These fluctuations can be tied to the weather, export demand, the number of livestock that consumes feed, currency exchange rates between countries, USDA crop reports and a host of other factors. Many farmers use a variety of marketing tools, such as futures, options and hedges, to reduce their risk in commodity price fluctuations.

Today’s farmer is adept at technology. Precision farming has arrived on thousands of central Illinois farms, as auto-steer, GPS, precision planting, row shutoff units and most recently, unmanned aerial vehicles have surfaced as technologies that could prove a good return on investment. Just like everyone else with a smartphone or iPad, farmers have access to information at the touch of a few buttons or swipes, and can download a variety of apps that assist with scouting fields for pests, market updates, weather, machinery and many other tools in the tech world.

A farmer is a caretaker. They care for animals. It’s easy to get attached to animals that you see every day and feed, water and check for any sickness that may develop. Many a livestock farmer has helped deliver a baby calf, lamb or piglet, or nursed a sick animal back to health.

A farmer is an environmentalist. That is why they build and reconstruct grass waterways, terraces and ponds; use no-till practices or minimum tillage; place acreage in conservation programs; use buffer strips along streams; and plant cover crops. They care for the soil, water and natural resources for which they are responsible, with the desire to pass it on to the next generation in better condition than what it is today. iBi