Farming is one of the oldest professions. Without advances in the fields, we would still be using plows and doing everything by hand. I certainly would not be able to make a living doing my job the same way they did way back when. For starters, I would need to have a lot more people who I would have to pay much less! Just because I am an organic farmer, it does not mean I do not embrace advances.
Luckily for all of us, just as technology has improved things like the auto industry, agricultural machinery has been created and modified. There is so much that can be done with machines now, making the job of farming less back-breaking, slow, and tedious. What used to take a week of hard labor before with handheld tillers now takes a few minutes using gas-powered equipment. This allows me to plant more crops on bigger fields in less time. Many of these machines can be automated now, eliminating even more labor time and removing much of the human error involved. Harvesting and processing crops also used to take entire families weeks to do, and now it is a much smoother process thanks to harvesters and other machinery.We have come a long way from the use of fire and axes as ways to maximize crop growth!
Even the crops themselves have changed. Farmers have long been trying to perfect crops—cross breeding with heartier strands of produce to strengthen crops, introducing pest-resistant varieties, and using the seeds from plants that achieved greater yields than others. Now we can even genetically modify crops, creating a sort of supercrop—pest resistant, drought tolerant, nutrient-dense, cheap to grow, and achieving a high yield. Here on my farm, we do not use any genetically modified seeds, but these kinds of seeds can feed incredible amounts of people nutritious foods in a cost-effective way.
Livestock breeding has come a long way as well. Humans have been breeding animals since we domesticated them centuries ago, even before we understood DNA. Man has bred some breeds of horses (and even dogs) to near-perfection. As time has gone on, our techniques and strategies have improved. We now have a better understanding of how genetics affects livestock.We can more easily manipulate breeding to our advantage. We can weed out undesirable traits that can cause defects or allow animals to be more susceptible to disease, or we can introduce new ones with the help of artificial insemination or other, more natural breeding strategies that help us maximize our results. What used to be little more than a crapshoot is now a scientifically monitored process that is more effective than ever before.
More accurate weather forecasting has been a huge help to farmers. We are better prepared for early or late frosts, can prepare our land for natural disasters, and have an idea when a bad storm is coming. In addition, irrigation systems have also changed over the years. Whereas even short droughts used to spell doom for small farmers, we now have water-saving and storage strategies that allow us to keep our crops from withering and dying. As our irrigation techniques and equipment improve, the less water is needed to water our crops and the less water is contaminated as we move along.
All of these things don’t necessarily make a farmer’s job easy. There is still a lot of guesswork and finger-crossing involved. You can listen to the weather every day, plant your hearty crops in machine-expertly tilled soil, and still have it fail because of a freak late frost or too much rain. I am thankful for all of the advances that have been made and I hope that people continue to strive to improve the process.