When I sit in the back of a taxi, seat of an airplane or walk the aisles of any grocery store, the one thing I have in common with anyone I meet is that we enjoy a good meal. Whether organic, naturally raised, from a farmers market, a package of Farmland Bacon (hint — it could be raised by yours truly) or whatever label someone places trust in, we all eat and enjoy food. The majority of consumers I meet enjoy buying and supporting local farmers and businesses. Throughout these conversations I’m always asked about the size of my farm.
The vision of a farm is somewhat idyllic in the public eye, and the image of American Gothic always comes to mind. When I tell people how many acres we grow or the number of pigs that we raise, I’m asked if we’re a factory farm. A farm is simply not defined by its size; it’s defined by the people who work on that farm every day and pour everything they have into raising a quality product. At the end of the day, it is a business, and quality is what demands the premium. Today’s farmers and ranchers strive to improve, and we rely heavily upon technology in order to do so.
We use vast amounts of technology in every facet of our operation, but when American Gothic is a common reference for farming, it is hard for consumers to envision how progressive we are when Charlotte’s Web or Babe have incorrectly depicted agriculture. As technology advances in our personal lives, it also advances on our farm. From our tractors that use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to conserve fuel, seed and fertilizer to the nutritious diets or well-balanced rations that we provide our animals, life on the farm is much different than it was just 10 or 20 years ago.
The technology used on our farm has automated many of the monotonous daily tasks such as dumping a feed bucket or steering across a field. It’s allowed us the opportunity to add a more personal touch to everything that we do. Most days, I’m able to give all our baby pigs born on the farm that 1 on 1 attention they need as neonatal. On other days, specifically after harvest of our corn and soybeans in the fall, we evaluate yield and field maps to plan for next year’s growing season. We use the best seed varieties and apply the right amount of fertilizer that best matches our soil type. Just as a new iPhone seems to come out every six months, we incorporate new technology on our farm to continually advance our practices.
When asked about a day in the life of a farmer, most days are vastly different and sometimes it’s hard to pick out the wins from the losses, but when asked what success looks like on our farm, the response is always easy — when I sit and watch from the end row and the next generation is at the wheel embracing tomorrow’s technologies to enrich the operation, I will have succeeded.
Thomas Titus, pig farmer from Illinois and one of USFRA’s Faces of Farming & Ranching, says farmers and ranchers continually strive to improve, and we rely heavily upon technology in order to do so.
Over the last 52 years, Thomas’s 240-acre farmstead has grown to support four families, three full-time employee families and two part-time employees. Thomas primarily manages the operation of Tri Pork, where they market 12,000 pigs annually. With roots in 4-H, FFA and youth development, they have 50 sows for show pig production, sale and exhibition. This allows their children to learn the joys of showing livestock and helps them develop character-building values.