This past week, I spent Wednesday at the Farm Progress Show
in Decatur. This was my first Farm Progress Show in many, many, many years. The
last one I attended was while I was in FFA at Amboy High School.
I was completely impressed by the depth and breadth of the
seed technology, the equipment technology and all the other technology on
display at the show. If it involved production agriculture, it was there.
I was even more impressed at the “non-tech” technology at
the show. For instance, Roger Windhorn, who works for the Natural Resources
Conservation Service out of Champaign, was there, down in a soil pit, talking to
people about soil and soil conservation and soil structure.
Next to Roger was a rainfall simulator from the Piatt County
Soil and Water Conservation District that had a touchable display of how rain
drains off of four surfaces, from bare dirt to different levels of crop residue
and then paved surfaces. They also had a display of a rain barrel set up for
folks to check out.
The seed technology was all about offering choices to
farmers and doing more with less. Contrary to popular opinion, the market for
non-traited seeds is alive and well, and a lot of the seed companies at the show
were emphasizing their offerings of non-traited seed varieties.
Those attending the show came from all over the U.S. and
from outside the U.S., including Canada, Asia and South America. The displays
there are relevant to their farming and agriculture — indeed some companies who
are based abroad tailor their offerings, of course, to their main markets. But
that technology, like the low-compaction tractors, can be equally applicable to
U.S. agriculture, no matter what’s being grown.
Many of the companies that were at the show provided
information, as well, that didn’t skip over some of the real challenges that are
facing farmers in the short- and long-term.
But just like the shelving units in my basement that still
are sitting in their packaging, all that technology, all of that advice and all
of those warnings, can’t do anyone a bit of good until they’re put into
practice. It’s nice to walk and look, but hopefully many of those attending the
show came away with at least some small spark of ideas of something they can do
better or differently on their farm to preserve it for the future.
We talk a lot about sustainability in agriculture. But
there’s a world of difference between, first of all, understanding what that
term means in its entirety, then second, putting it into practice in every
aspect of the farm operation, from soil conservation and preservation to water
conservation to financial sustainability.
The many exhibits at the Farm Progress Show showed off the
latest and greatest in agriculture. But the companies can only do so much.
They can provide the tools for farmers to not only feed nine
billion people by 2050, but to keep farms productive and thriving for the next
hundred years. It’s up to us to take those tools and use all of them responsibly
When we can use the information on soil conservation and
soil structure to improve and conserve our soils, when we can use the
information from the rainfall simulator to retain and direct rainfall
responsibly, when we can use the seed and equipment technology in a way that
preserves and conserves and extends its relevance and usefulness, then that’s