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Blocking the horizon

Progressive Forage Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 31 December 2019

“But we already have a four-horse trailer.”

Even before I said those words, I knew I had lost this argument with my husband. Still, this issue deserved venting, so I piled it on: “In fact, we already have two four-horse trailers, yes? And no horses.”

“Yes.”

“And we currently own no livestock whatsoever, even chickens, isn’t that right?”

“Yes. But our kids do, and our grandkids do, and they need trailers.”

Oh, I get it – it’s for themmm …. Nice try, but no dice.

I continued, “And this particular trailer you want is in bad enough shape that for the neighbor to pull it four miles from his farm, someone had to follow him over in case it didn’t make it. Is that right? For only four miles?”

“Yes, but that’s only because the lights don’t work.” This is how I knew I had lost: It was already parked in the driveway. But you can’t really count it as losing when you didn’t get the chance to spar before the knock-out punch.

“And how long will it be sitting in front of the shop and blocking the driveway?”

And then he spills it. “Well, we have to fix some things,” which sounds ominous but not surprising because he paid so little for it. “We’ll have to weld on some side panels where it’s rusted out, change the hitch – stuff like that.”

Yup, it’s that “stuff” that has me worried. This steal-of-a-deal is going to end up costing thousands – he knows it and so do I. Some men bring home shop tools; some can’t pass up a sale on leather gloves; mine brings home trailers.

This whole argument reminds me of an incident Robert Saak related in his book, Food 5.0. He grew up on a farm and, between his junior and senior year in college, he saved enough money to buy a 28k IBM computer with monochrome screen and nine-pin printer. (That should give you a rough idea of his era.) He tried to convince his farming father that it would change the way they farm. His father asked what it had cost and, when Saak told him $6,300, his father swore, stormed out and wouldn’t talk to him for several days.

It’s easy now, in the second decade of the 21st century, to look at that example and think, “Saak was right; the computer has changed the way we farm.” Sure, hindsight is 20-20, but we can’t deny the validity of the father’s concern – $6,300 was (and is still) a lot of money for a concept. In that era, $6,300 would have paid for a swather needed to cut crops. I can appreciate his point.

The father was concerned with the realities of the day, and the son was looking down the road of potential and wondering “what if.”

So what are the realities of our day? You live with 30-year-old planters that you hope to patch together and replace enough parts to make it through another half-dozen seasons. You saw a neighbor’s farm go up for sale and dreamed of expansion but knew ag production wouldn’t make it pay, and then you saw it sold for development. Your crops alternately were flooded, frozen, shriveled, hailed on and blighted. In the past decade, those have been your realities.

But just for a minute, consider the “what ifs” that could become part of a new decade. What if trade deals got signed and passed through Congress? What if biotechnology found the gene sequence that could alter weevil resistance in alfalfa? What if a sensor was developed for sprayers that enabled them to actually see weeds? What if labor pressure eased? What if an autonomous engine could unfold equipment like a Swiss army knife and perform multiple functions at once?

It’s the dawn of a new decade. The realities are still with us – every day, every season. But these “what ifs” aren’t just dreams; they’re already being developed, and they could literally change the way we farm. There are amazing possibilities on the horizon.

Well, at least on your horizon. I can’t see my horizon because a stupid horse trailer is blocking the view. end mark

Lynn Jaynes
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