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The Golden Age of agriculture

By Jennifer M. Latzke

GOLDEN AGE OF AG—Above, Speaker Jay Lehr chats with an attendee after his presentation at the 2012 Small Grain Solutions event in Dodge City, Kan. Lehr’s talk was about how modern agriculture is entering a golden age of productivity and how farmers can best grasp the benefits for their farms. Left, attendees register to win a toy John Deere tractor in Dodge City. Right, in appreciation for his speech that encouraged growers to increase their on-farm efficiencies and share the story of modern ag with their neighbors, the event organizers gave Lehr and other speakers their own toy John Deere tractors. (Journal photos by Jennifer M. Latzke.)
Jay Lehr has a unique drive to share the story of modern agriculture with consumers, and he wants farmers and ranchers to help spread the story.

During the Small Grain Solutions tour this year, Lehr shared his optimistic outlook for the future of modern agriculture, as well as some trends and techniques that small grain farmers should consider to improve their business efficiency.

Lehr began with the issue of efficiency and asked growers to consider keeping a time journal for two weeks. By documenting every action they take on and off the farm, they can better identify those areas where they are efficient—and more importantly those where they aren’t.

“You want to be more efficient in those things that actually make money for you,” Lehr said. Efficiency also translates into new farming tools and techniques like precision agriculture, soil sampling, yield monitoring, field mapping and others.

“Get serious about looking at the percentage of your land that is in high, medium or low soils—however you define that—so that you can target your inputs,” he said. “If you aren’t looking at your farm as a farm with multiple agronomic needs, you need to.”

Another emerging tool for efficiency on the farm will be the tablet computer, Lehr said. “It’s been estimated that within three years nearly everyone will have one,” he said. “There are so many apps available now and in development that will enhance your business.”

Another way to increase a farm operator’s efficiency is the use of Certified Crop Advisors.

“I think one of the best investments you can make is to seek outside assistance in the rapidly changing field of agronomy,” he said. Farmers today have so much more data and decisions to juggle, that it helps to have an expert in their corner helping them with crop input decisions, just as someone would hire an accountant to help at tax time.

“I hope that someday we promote agronomists enough that they have the same amount of prestige as a CPA,” Lehr said. Lehr challenged growers as they are considering their individual farm decisions they also need to spend time promoting agriculture to an ever-leary public.

“We are no longer revered by the public,” Lehr said. “The anti-agriculture environmental zealots have taught that we are killing the environment, and for 30 years the public attention has been driven to see us as the bad guys. We aren’t sustainable. They want us to prove that we’re doing it right.”

Lehr asked the farmers in the room to spend two hours every month as part of their investment in the future of agriculture to talk about agriculture in a positive way to their friends, family, neighbors and yes, even strangers who aren’t involved in agriculture.

“People do not know where food comes from until you tell them,” he added. “We have 2 million people in production agriculture in the U.S. and if every one of them put in 2 hours a month, we could turn back agriculture’s reputation.

“The better informed the public is about agriculture, the longer our Golden Age of agriculture will be,” Lehr said.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807, or