By Jeanie Anello
Like many GreenStone employees, I grew up on a family-owned dairy farm. My parents owned 200 acres and milked about 100 cows, which was an average-sized farm for our area at the time. Our farm consisted of a big red barn with three traditional silos surrounded by acres of green cow and horse pasture – the type of idyllic setting many may still picture when they think of a farm. I have many fond memories of helping with farm chores such as bottle-feeding newborn calves and helping with hay baling.
After college I moved away from the farm to live and work in the “big city” for many years. My parents still live on the farm where I grew up, but their place is now just a hobby farm. Thus, I had been removed from production agriculture for quite some time. I recently joined GreenStone as the marketing manager, and while marketing is very familiar to me, I am quickly becoming reacquainted with the agricultural industry.
After attending the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Farm Show recently, I am amazed at how much the farming industry has changed! From what I have seen, the most significant change is the advanced technology now prevalent in the industry. Everything from feeding cattle to cleaning pens to planting and harvesting crops now includes power equipment. Tractors are GPS-driven – and driverless tractors will likely be a reality in the next few years. Bales are less likely to be hand stacked on wagons anymore, more typically managed with forklifts or tractors. There’s no longer a need for a farm kid to deliver a phone message to dad out in the field; in fact, farmers are super-users of cell phone and mobile technology, including ag-related apps. The traditional red wooden barns have aged, and the new barns are built with focus on improved ventilation, bedding and feeding advancements for better animal health and comfort.
A lot has changed in farming in the past couple decades, but some things have stayed the same. The young FFA members at the farm show still appeared to be as enthusiastic, energetic and optimistic as I recalled from my county fair days (with the addition of ever-present cell phones for social media sharing, of course)! Many of the farmer conversations I overheard still centered around the weather, commodity prices, animal husbandry, and what the neighbors are up to – much like during my childhood. A great growing season and favorable weather are still reasons to rejoice, while severe weather and market fluctuations are still reasons to worry.
Farms are still family businesses and kids probably still have daily chores, although I wonder if robotic milking machines have added some flexibility to their social schedules. And I’m guessing (hoping!) these kids still deliver snacks to their dads in the field sometimes – although their delivery vehicle is likely a quad or a Gator, and not a stubborn Shetland pony!
Jeanie Anello is the marketing manager at GreenStone Farm Credit Services.