Farmer 10.0 – Breaking the Mold

Conjure up the classic image of a farmer in your mind. You’re probably picturing a man, in flannel or perhaps overalls, sweaty and sunbaked with a pitchfork or maybe sitting on a tractor. Toss out all those preconceived notions of the behind-the-times country boy who talks funny and hasn’t heard of modern technology and get ready to embrace farmer 10.0.Farmer 1.0 vs 10.0

Farmers today are chemists, engineers, soil scientists and biologists. Many are well-educated and have turned farming into a science. Soil testing is now routine, applying variable rates of fertilizer is common, and using GPS to map crops and track pesticide or fertilizer applications are yesterday’s news. Modern technology is not limited to big agriculture, individual farmers are getting in the game too. Laptop computers and mobile devices are making it easier and more affordable for average farmers to leverage high-tech assistance in their day-to-day work in the fields.

67% of farmer’s now have internet access. The remaining third lacking internet can be attributed to lack of infrastructure in rural areas, a major limiting factor for rural growth. Facilitating and funding the improvement of infrastructure in rural areas in one of the main goals of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s strategic plan for 2016.

Seventy-one percent of crop farms and 70 percent of livestock farms reported computer access. – Va Farm Bureau

Precision agriculture employs a number of technological tools to monitor yields, gather soil data, apply fertilizer and more.

Technology doesn’t end with household computers though. Farmers are becoming tech-savvy using apps and gadgets to better manage their farm.  “Popular apps include goCrop, which keeps track of irrigation systems, FieldView, which tells farmers what they’ve planted and where, as well as apps that do things like keep track of humidity, crops, and farm records.”

Arguably the most difficult stereotype to change in our minds is that Old McDonald may be a lady! That’s right, women have always been part of the farm, but the 2007 USDA census reports more than 300,000 women own their own farms and 30% (over 1 million) are “farm operators” or partners alongside their male counterparts. Many female farmers represent the small-scale farming effort but don’t pigeon hole these ladies, in 2007 nearly 2,000 female farmers had sales of $1 million or more.

The share of U.S. farms operated by women nearly tripled over the past three decades. – USDA EIB

Training programs are being developed specifically for women that not only teach key aspects of the farm business but also provide the opportunity for networking and support. The six-session management workshop, called Annie’s Project, is hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center.

Experts say women are gravitating to small-scale farming that is very consumer-based, and doesn’t require barns or silos because the food is going right from farm to farmers market. – USA Today

So replace that pitchfork with a tablet, the bandana with a smartphone, the GED with a Master’s degree in agriculture and just maybe throw a skirt on Farmer 10.0. The average farmer isn’t so average anymore!

For further reading

Top Apps in Farming: There’s an App for That!

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About Risa Pesapane

Risa is the Project Director for Rural System, Inc. and is an experienced research biologist and wildlife ecologist.

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