Most of what you’ll see below is from a column I wrote three years ago. I stumbled across it recently and asked myself, do I still believe it.
More to the point, do you?
My sense is that the future of farming is going to be incredible, literally. Probably, it’s your sense of the future too. If it’s too easy to believe, it isn’t going far enough.
The next time you climb into a new tractor or combine cab, think how much of it your father or grandfather would have dismissed as science fiction. I keep reminding myself that when I once asked an older uncle of mine what was the single biggest advance he’d seen in his career, his answer came in a flash: hydraulics.
Now imagine what agriculture will look like by the time all those new tractors at the farm show are ready to retire.
There’s a widespread sense that the evolution of agriculture has slowed down. The thinking goes that Darwinism is called the survival of the fittest because life is tough and only the very best will still be with us tomorrow. When life is good, evolution stops.
After the improvement in farm balance sheets over the past decade, the likelihood that huge numbers of farms will be pushed to the brink seems remote.
Does that mean evolution has stopped? Maybe it only means that evolution has changed, and that instead of being driven by threats, today it is being powered by opportunities and by the farmers who are seizing them.
If today’s family corporations were inconceivable a generation ago, how much more sophisticated will tomorrow’s farms have to get to be equally incredible to us?
Perhaps the logic is flawed. Perhaps we can’t take today’s trends and extend them into the future, but in that issue three years ago, we quoted economist Brian Oleson about his belief that what we’re living through isn’t the birth of mega-farms, it’s the birth of “dynasty farms.”
I already know that some readers will be tut-tutting, saying, “We’ve been here before. Big farms have never lasted.”
To which I say, “Maybe.” Honestly, while I know there have been a lot of smart farmers in the past I have trouble believing there has ever been a more sophisticated generation of farmers than today’s, or a generation with better advisers, or better technology.
For those with the drive to put that sophistication to full use, drawing on great advice and the best technology, the future will be beyond our power to conceive it.
Three years further down the road, I’m seeing what passion can achieve in agriculture, and I’ve met enough incredibly gifted farmers to justify my faith in the unbelievable.
Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].