Ag Innovation Showcase: The voice of the farmer
People often think farmers are manipulated by large corporations or government programmesShow transcript
For the first time in its eight year history, the Ag Innovation Showcase featured a series highlighting the voice of the farmer: giving a critical platform to the people on the front line of feeding the world, and the challenges they need innovative help to overcome. We hear from Blake Hurst about the challenges he’s faced this year, and why he chooses to farm the way he does. Registration is now open for the Ag Innovation Showcase 2017: visit www.agshowcase.com.
Sam Fiorello: So, rather than a typical keynote where you have an expert luminary giving a talk, we have a panel of farmers saying, here’s my life, here’s my reality, here’s some pain points, here are things that I’d like to see, so that we can pass this farm on to my children and grandchildren, and continue this legacy and be good stewards of the farm.
Blake Hurst: So, we have a farm in northwest Missouri, and grow corn and soybeans with an extended family. My dad at 81 is still active in the business. Two brothers, three nephews and two son-in-laws all involved. And then my wife and our immediate family have a greenhouse business. About 100,000 sq ft of greenhouse space where we grow bedding plants. So that’s our business.
Our challenge this year has been excess moisture. We lost a little bit of crop to flooding. And we’ve had so much rain, weed control hasn’t been as good as we would have liked. But overall I think we’ll have a good crop. Prices here in the US are lower than we’d like, but we’ll live to fight and farm another day.
Sam Fiorello: Some folks who are not in the ag business have these assumptions that farmers are out there, and they’re uninformed, and they’re… but in fact, farmers are brilliant businesspeople, they understand their land, there’s a sense of stewardship of the farm.
Blake Hurst: One of the things that happens when people criticise agriculture is, they often think of farmers not having agency, of being forced into the way we farm by large companies, or government programmes, or the market. But each day we face a series of decisions on how we’re going to spend the day, how we’re going to tend our crops that day. And farmers are well educated, we’re experienced. We have the ability to make moral judgements.
Sam Fiorello: They’re going to make decisions that help them to maximise their businesses. But those maximisations also mean using less fresh water, because that’s expensive. Using less fertiliser, because fertiliser’s very expensive. Getting more yield.
Blake Hurst: We of course use genetically modified seed, both in our corn and soybeans. Where we farm in northwest Missouri, we have steep slopes, it’s rolling hills and so we’re using totally no-till farming. That’s only possible with the genetically modified seeds, because of the weed control system we’re able to use.
We use herbicides, and they selectively kill undesirable plants, weeds, and they leave the crop unharmed. People need to understand that there is no way to farm without controlling weeds. Any way we control weeds uses resources, and so what we try to do is to control them in the most efficient means possible.
Sam Fiorello: You know, farming is a difficult business, and it’s a changing environment. You have now temperature swings and either go through periods of drought or severe flooding. You’re exposed to the elements. Farmers look to mitigate risk at all costs. That’s their number one thing, it’s shedding risk. And the way you can shed risk is through technology coming through the pipeline, to create sensors, or more efficient ways to sow your seeds and care for those seeds. Seeds that can withstand these dramatic changes in temperature, and other climatic conditions. Plants that can stay ahead of pathogens that are changing all the time. So, it’s a very difficult business. It takes a select few to do it. But those who do it are passionate. It’s more than just work. It’s a livelihood, it’s a way of life for their families.