Thursday, April 26, 2012

Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?

Tuesday, my employer, Dakota College at Bottineau, celebrated Earth Day.  The theme for this year was Farming, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  The featured speaker was Will Weaver and the book read for this year was his book 'Sweet Land'.  I attended some of the sessions and it got me thinking - especially as I drove home that day and in the few days since. 

You see, the fields surrounding our new farm have been abuzz with activity.  The activity that comes with farming in today's world, which means big green and red machines pulling all types of equipment across the land in an attempt to feed the world, if not their own families.

It has me thinking...has the growth in the size of farms pushed the size of machinery or has the size of machinery pushed the size of the farms?  Way back when the average size farm in North Dakota was just over 200 acres - which was a long time ago because as you know, early settlers were given 160 acres free if they homesteaded, things were done by hand or with horses.  Then, the industrial age came and machines began to show up on our small farms.

Machines like this
 And this..not the ATV but what it is pulling...

So I wonder. There are only so many hours in a day.  So many hours, even in our long spring days as we had towards June, in which to accomplish all the planting and field work.  In older days, you didn't have tractors with auto steer, GPS, not even lights.  You were limited to what you could do in a day by the number of daylight hours in that day.  So why and when did it change?  As the farms got bigger did the equipment dealers decide to add technology to allow farmers to farm longer because they had to in order to get things done...OR...did the equipment dealers new technology get the farmers to thinking that they could get bigger because now they had the technology to do so?  You're no longer limited by the number of daylight hours in a day.  Is that a good thing?

Either way, I'm afraid it will all end up like Mr. Weaver's story 'The Last Farmer' about a farmer who works a whole LOT of land and ends up missing meals and going for days without sleep to get the crop in the ground in the spring because his wife has left him - there's no social life on a rural farm when the farms are so big and far apart - and no one to help him, because the lights and GPS and auto steer will allow him to go 24/7. 

I'm glad to know, as I watch the big green and red machines in the fields that surround our farm that there are still small farmers out there.  Small farmers like us who do things by hand or with small machines.  I'm glad to know that the farmers in my area still have wives and families to go home to and even though they sometimes work late at night, they do go home to them.  I don't think it's easy to feed the world and I'm glad they're doing it - thanks you guys!  But I still wonder, does all the new farming technology really make it easier?

Photo taken by unidentified photographer in Pekin, ND


  1. Our neighbor was out until 4am the other night! Right behind our yard and we slept with the windows open, so we know exactly what time he went home. :)

  2. I feel the exact same way when I watch the other farmers out there with their Goliath tractors and I am outside with my "David" sized shovel.