After Jeff knocked on his parents’ door he was too impatient to wait for an answer. He opened the door and stepped in.
“Come and see this!” he yelled, holding up a sheet of paper.
“Is everything okay?” his mom, Donna, called from the basement.
“You bet it is!” Jeff called back.
By the time Donna got upstairs, Dale had come out of his office and was squinting at the red circle Jeff had scrawled on the page of small print.
Jeff held the contract out toward his mom. “$17.50 canola!”
Donna laughed. “Congratulations! Too bad your grandfather isn’t here to see this.”
Dale nodded. “I didn’t think you and Elaine were doing the right thing, keeping all that canola unpriced last fall.”
“We got lucky,” Jeff said. “And I don’t want to talk about what we got for those green lentils.”
“Still,” Dale said. “It’s a nice way to head into seeding.”
“Now if we can get some rain,” Jeff said.
“Do you have time for coffee?” Donna asked Jeff.
“I didn’t just come over to brag. Can I have your phones? I want to put that second app on.”
After a lot of research, Jeff and Elaine had decided to use a new app to keep track of field data.
“We’ll all know exactly what we’re seeding where,” Jeff had explained to his parents and Mark, the Hansons’ employee. “We can keep track of spraying so we don’t have any mixups. And if anybody sees a rock they can mark it on the app.”
Dale had been doubtful. “It sounds good. But will it work in practice?”
“I hope so,” Elaine admitted. “I spent more time setting up this app than on our cropping plan.”
“It gets good reviews,” Jeff added. “And we phoned a friend who uses it.”
“It has to be better than those little notebooks you used to pick up at farm meetings,” Donna said. “I’m tired of finding those under the truck seats, two years later, covered in mud.”
In the end, the Hansons and Mark agreed to give the new app a chance.
“I’ve always got my phone with me anyway,” Mark said. “I could use it for something besides texting jokes.”
Soon every adult on the farm had an updated, linked app and knew how to use it. Then a few weeks later something else came up.
“We need to run the seeder longer hours this year,” Jeff had said one morning when all the adults were in the shop. “Lots of the guys on Twitter ran 24-hour days last year.”
“People on Twitter do all kinds of things I don’t want to do,” Dale said.
“When did you start using Twitter?” Jeff asked.
“I don’t,” Dale said. “But I’m not wrong, am I?”
Donna ignored the Twitter debate and considered the people. “Twenty-four hours?” she asked. “That means long days.”
“We can’t push it quite that far,” Jeff said. “But we’ve got to get longer days when we can. My weather guy is calling for a rainy season.”
“There’s a reason they put lights on these machines,” Dale said. “But don’t forget we also have to keep the sprayer running. And the seed tender. And we need to pick some rocks out on those quarters over east.”
“And the rolling,” Donna added. “And last-minute seed customers. And driving the kids to school and soccer. And we’re going to need to eat and sleep.”
“It’s going to take planning to keep the five of us in the right place,” Elaine said.
Jeff’s eyes lit up. “Maybe there’s a scheduling app.”
“Don’t forget to add in bathroom breaks,” Mark chimed in from the corner of the shop where he was making himself a latte.
“Careful or he’ll replace you with an app,” Dale said to Mark.
Jeff had found an app and set it up, and now that he’d installed it on Dale and Donna’s phones and linked them to the farm account, it was ready to go. Jeff showed his parents how it worked while he finished his coffee.
“See,” he said. “If you flip to the next screen you can see who’s doing what on Monday.”
“It’s not the same every day?” Donna asked.
“Of course not,” Jeff said. “Remember Grandpa’s old saying. ‘A change is as good as a rest.’”
“Seems pretty rigid,” Dale said. “Machinery’s going to break down. Surprises will creep up.”
“We’ll keep it on track,” Jeff said. “Trust me.”
With the two new apps in place, the machinery ready to go, and the seed and fertilizer waiting in the bin, as soon as it was warm enough the Hansons hit the field running. Mark was spraying ahead of the seeder, Dale was keeping the seed tender filled, Jeff was seeding the first hundred acres, Donna was chauffeuring the kids, and Elaine was loading a neighbour’s truck with the newest variety of red lentils.
On Day 1, the app worked like clockwork. Elaine took over the tractor from Jeff after lunch. Dale spelled Mark off so he could get out of the sprayer.
Day 2 also went well, with no breakdowns and bright sunshine. Everyone followed the schedule until Elaine had to make a last-second trip to town for extra parts and missed the first half of her shift with the seed tender. The crew noticed that Jeff had extra time to make frequent stops at the house and bring out snacks for everyone, but that seemed to be a feature of the new plan, not a bug.
By Day 3, the Hansons were ready to admit that Jeff might be right about this app. It was still early days, but the tractor was running 16-hour days, no one was tired, and Jeff was keeping everyone’s lunch cooler stocked with snacks.
But on the afternoon of the fourth day, after an early morning, Dale was getting drowsy in the tractor cab. He re-checked the app, and finally phoned Jeff. “I’m nodding off out here,” he said. “I thought you were taking over at 2:00.”
“I thought it was 4:00,” Jeff said.
“Nope,” Dale said, double-checking his screen.
“I forgot,” Jeff said.
“But it’s right on the app.” Dale was bewildered.
“Yeah,” Jeff said. “Probably is.”
“I don’t get it,” Dale said.
When he got to the field and looked his dad in the eye, Jeff finally came out with the truth.
“I ran out of data.”
“With that high-end plan you pay for?”
Jeff sighed. “The kids watched YouTube videos on my phone last week, while I ran into Peavey Mart. There was a guy in there I needed to talk to. It took a while. Now I have to go to the house to pick up the WiFi.
“That explains all the snacks,” Dale nodded.
“I didn’t want anybody to find out. You’d think my plan didn’t work. I’d buy more data, but my plan refreshes tomorrow, I can’t give the phone company the satisfaction. They charge us enough already.”
“Alright,” Dale said. He stood up, waving one hand at the seat. “She’s all yours. I’ll take a break and come back out… well, heck.” Dale grinned. “I’ll come back out whenever I feel like it.”