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 and well.

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 farm progress.