September 9th was the annual Kids’ Ag Day, a cooperative venture between the Great Bend Chamber, area school FFA programs, public agencies involved in agriculture, area producers/agribusinesses, and presenters who have volunteered their talents and energies to provide Barton County fourth graders a glimpse into the world of producing food, fiber, and fuel. For over twenty years this event has exposed area children to what is involved in farming and ranching. While it may seem unnecessary in a rural area, most of today’s children, even here, are disconnected from where their food comes from.
As you read this another event is taking place in Hutchinson that in some ways serves a similar purpose not just for our youth but adults – the Kansas State Fair. While the agriculture component has shrunk vastly over the years, the fair still provides an opportunity for adults to gain some exposure to today’s agricultural world. Speaking with adults (teachers and other adults with the children) at the Kids’ Ag Day, it is apparent even adults are not totally aware of what goes on today in producing agricultural commodities. This even applies to many who grew up on the farm and then moved away as adults. So what is different in farming and ranching from the time those adults left the farm till now?
• Drones are rapidly becoming important in helping producers monitor crops and even livestock. They are relatively cheap when you consider what can be done with them.
• GPS and autosteer are revolutionizing agriculture, allowing producers not only unparalleled accuracy but significantly decreasing physical fatigue.
• The size of equipment has also changed markedly allowing producers to not only do more at one time but do it with fewer people.
• Intensive tillage is rapidly becoming a thing of the past for many farmers as they transition to systems designed to keep residue on the soil surface to protect the soil and conserve moisture.
• Pest control has evolved to pesticides much safer for the environment, wildlife, and people. Rates have gone from a quart or more per acre to ounces per acre. Genetic engineering has resulted in decreased use of insecticides and the ability to use safer herbicides. GMOs are also resulting in crops better able to withstand heat and water stress. There’s more but hopefully you get the idea. And somethings at the event show some things haven’t changed much in generations.
• Bees are still critically important to many crop plants in addition to providing honey and beeswax. The change involves the threat to bees from various sources.
• There is still a need for the cowboy, his skills and his horse in cattle production. While a cowboy may have an Ipad holder on his saddle horn, the ability of the cowboy and horse to work cattle is still critically important.
• And finally, as you watch the farm animal exhibit, it’s still readily apparent that children and adults love animals.